Members of the political opposition in Syria were set to meet in Saudi Arabia on Monday to discuss a possible ceasefire just a day after a string of extremist attacks struck Syrian cities, Bloomberg reported. Negotiators want guarantees that Iran and Russia can be trusted to implement a ceasefire, the National Syrian Coalition, which represents Syria’s opposition fighters, said on Twitter.
But surging violence has drawn into question the viability of a political solution. Recent attacks targeted Shiite sites in Damascus and Homs, and killed at least 140 people. Dozens of cars were damaged and destroyed, local media reported. Russia said Monday that the violence, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, was aimed at “subverting attempts” to reach a political settlement, BBC reported.
Kerry: provisional ceasefire agreement reached in Syria's war, "There is a stark choice for everybody here" https://t.co/V62od4zbtu
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 21, 2016
The U.S. and Russia, supporting opposing sides of the conflict, have moved forward on a ceasefire proposal in recent days as years of fighting have resulted in 260,000 deaths and an extraordinary refugee crisis. Following a recent meeting with Russia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday a ceasefire could soon be reached.
Three past attempts to secure ceasefires since a civil war broke out in March 2011 have failed. But a truce has grown ever more urgent as Saudi Arabia and Turkey have become more entangled in the conflict, threatening to widen it. The death toll has risen since Russia, which backs the Syrian regime, intervened in September. At the same time, the Islamic State group, aka ISIS, has extended its reach overseas.
In addition to the fighting's death toll, more than half of Syria’s population of 23 million has been displaced. The conflict has given rise to extremist groups, including ISIS and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Neither group is involved in any potential ceasefire proposal.