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2017 | European University Institute & Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies - “Local reconciliation agreements” in Syria: a non-starter for peacebuilding

This paper analyses the local agreements concluded between the Syrian government and opposition bodies in Central Syria in 2016 and 2017. Local agreements aim at ending the active conflict in given localities by means of disarmament of opposition forces and re-establishment of Governmental (and Allied Forces’) military control over the locality, the displacement of some categories of population and the removal of all opposition governance structures at the local level.

While local agreements have resulted in ending violence in the localities concerned, above all they have proved to be a tactical tool of the Syrian regime to reconquer strategic zones. The local opposition and population however, is confronted with the negative consequences attached to these agreements such as forced displacements of –primarily- the local military and civilian leaders associated with the revolution against the regime and their families. Arrangements profitable for the opposition groups, such as the release of detainees, the lifting of restrictions on access and mobility, and the return of internally displaced people - are often marginalized or even excluded from negotiations. Another issue is that the aim of reshaping the governance relationship between the local population and the central government trough local agreements, in practice turns out to be no more than a formality. While the main determinants for reshaping the dynamics of local governance that emerge in post-agreements localities are ties with security services and loyalty to the regime, the down sides attached to the local agreements might open the way to new dynamics of violence in the (near) future.

The paper continues by explaining that the already arduous reintegration process of these formerly opposition-held localities into the Syrian State moreover faces three main obstacles for stabilisation and peacebuilding. First, whereas men from these newly integrated communities often are reluctant to join the Syrian army, they are obliged to conscript for national military service. Second, despite repeated calls from the communities to clarify the fate thousands of detainees and missing people, the Syrian authorities refuses disclosure. Finally, the Syrian government’s re-planning and re-building conflicts with property ownership and rehabilitation. These things taken together lead the authors to conclude that local agreements are far from constituting a basis for durable peace.