This report examines the trajectory of the Syrian conflict in the wake of the Russian and US agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons.

It argues that while that agreement, enshrined in Security Council Resolution 2118, may remove a pernicious class of weapons from the Syrian battlefield, it will do nothing to end the conflict or mitigate some of its other disastrous consequences. The West needs, therefore, to build on this deal and forge new agreements to gain humanitarian access and protection for Syria's civilians, and to establish a durable ceasefire. This will mean accepting, for the moment at least, that Assad will remain in power. But Western policy on Syria needs to operate within the realm of the possible, rather than the preferable.

Key points:

  • Syria's agreement that it will give up its chemical weapons, even if it is implemented, will do nothing to change the trajectory of the Syrian conflict which is locked in a bloody stalemate.
  • In the short term a diplomatic settlement of the conflict is unlikely, but there is scope to address some of the consequences of the conflict.
  • The West needs to build on the chemical weapons deal and forge new agreements on humanitarian access and a ceasefire.
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