Scenarios for a Peace Mission for Syria

This report analyses scenarios for a possible peacekeeping mission in Syria, making recommendations for the attention of the UN and the European Union.

The report’s author, Álvaro Vasconcelos, developed the report based on a series of consultations with international experts on Syria and on peacekeeping, including leaders of past UN missions to the region. The report follows a workshop hosted by the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) in Oslo.

While the complexity of the Syrian situation continues to frustrate humanitarian efforts, this report is a timely review of the Syrian conflict, its spillover into the region, and the potential role of regional and international powers in brokering a political solution. The report also breaks down possible formats for a peace mission, providing in-depth analysis of the role that various powers could play in enforcing and protecting any eventual peace agreement.

The report offers four key conclusions:

  • The humanitarian crisis will not be addressed without a large-scale intervention conducted with a clear mandate defined in a UN Security Council resolution
  • Any peace deal will likely not end the fighting between all armed groups. Even after a deal is agreed, Syria will still be a challenging environment, requiring a robust peace enforcement intervention, authorised under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
  • Any peace mission will need to be built with an understanding that the Syrian conflict is a regional war that threatens international security.
  • The development of a democratic political process that leads to elections and a new constitution must be the end goal for any peace mission.

In exploring the political and diplomatic treatment of the crisis, the report offers three preliminary recommendations:

  1. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy should present to the EU Council of Ministers a report on a future EU contribution to peace-making in Syria and start contingency planning for a peace enforcement mission. An initiative to build a coalition of the able and willing could be led by France, the United Kingdom and Italy, with support from Germany, other EU states, and non-EU NATO members like Turkey and Norway. Due to the hard power nature of such an operation, preparation for an intervention should be done using a ‘Berlin plus’ framework that allows for the use of NATO assets and capabilities.
  2. The UN Secretary General should charge a high level personality to work in coordination with the UN special envoy for Syria and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in building support for a peacekeeping operation in Syria. This would involve work to sound out different countries (including those cited in this report) about their willingness to contribute to such a force after a peace deal is reached. Discussion with the Syrian government and opposition forces, as well as Syria’s neighbours, should be a priority.
  3. Discussion over a potential peace mission should continue, with open participation from civil society and the community of experts on peacekeeping and Syria. A number of states have expressed openness to being potential contributors to a peace mission. The civil society in these countries, along with an international community of experts, should be involved in the discussion over the eventual nature of a peace mission through a series of debates in potential contributing countries, organised around the themes of this report. This would involve European states, Brazil, India, Indonesia and the Maghreb countries, together with the participation of experts from the UN DPKO.

This report was produced with the support of the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF).

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.