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U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura with Syrian opposition group representatives, Geneva, Switzerland, March 16, 2016 (U.N. photo by Anne-Laure Lechat).

First Steps on the Long Slog to Peace in the Middle East

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This week, three of the United Nations’ thankless peace missions—in Libya, Yemen and Syria—will mark steps forward. To be sure, the definition of success is modest. For now, just reducing violence and beginning a political process is the best that one can hope for. But the U.N. deserves credit for persevering and nudging the parties along.

Even as U.N. negotiators, sometimes with the ambiguous help of the great powers and regional leaders, begin cajoling the warring parties in the Middle East’s three terrible crises to compromise, the prospects for real peace are distant. The U.N. process not only aims to stop the fighting, but also to bring all the political actors into a process to reform or replace governments that were culpable or incapable. That’s a long slog. Building new institutions, fostering economic development, facilitating the return of refugees, and addressing questions of justice and reconciliation are all also necessary components of a stable peace, but they usually have to wait for basic conditions of security and a legitimate governing structure to be restored. ...

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