Syrian war at the crossroads. Curbing arms flow, imposing a no-fly zone and opening al-Yarubiyah border crossing

Release date: 2020-07

The war in Syria, now in its tenth year, has resulted in more than 500,000 victims, 6.2 million internally displaced persons and 5.7 million refugees. 11.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. To stop the humanitarian disaster and to address the pressing needs for civilian protection, the authors of BICC Policy Brief 4\2020, Lena Schellhammer and Marius Bales, suggests four concrete measures for EU member states:

\ Impose a comprehensive arms embargo to secondary conflict parties
Suspend the transfer of weapons, ammunition and military equipment to secondary conflict parties, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to stop illegal re-transfers to the Syrian war zone. Existing national agreements to suspend certain arms exports to Turkey (2019) by Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as the export moratoria of limited duration for Saudi Arabia (2018), should be extended to a comprehensive, not time-limited EU arms embargo.

\ Buy and destroy the still existing stocks of former Yugoslav weapons
Many of the weapons that are re-exported to Syria are old arms, produced in former Yugoslavian countries or the Soviet Union. To date, partially uncontrolled and illegal stocks of old arms exist on the Balkans and in eastern European states. To prevent further proliferation of these weapons to Syria and other war zones, the European Commission should set up an initiative to buy and destroy these weapons.

\ Establish a UN-mandated no-fly zone in northern Syria
To stop the cycle of mass displacement and attacks against civilians, a UN-mandated no-fly zone must be established in northern Syria. If a no-fly zone is not successful in protecting civilians in northern Syria, a UN-mandated safe zone must also be considered and ultimately implemented.

\ Extend humanitarian cross-border aid (UNSCR 2165) and reopen the al-Yarubiyah border crossing
EU member states must call on the UN Security Council to vote for continuing humanitarian cross-border aid (UNSCR 2165) and to reopen the al-Yarubiyah border crossing with Iraq in north-eastern Syria to prevent the humanitarian situation from deteriorating further.

The authors claim that these four measures must be taken at the same time. Stopping the arms flow is important, but without a no-fly zone and extended humanitarian aid, the Syrian regime could benefit disproportionally, which would increase current risks to civilians.