A “cessation of hostilities” in Syria? (with link to text of February12, 2016 Munich communique)

The ghost of Kofi Annan lives on, in the form of the U.N. negotiations under the aegis of Stefan de Mistura and the Security Council’s resolution in December, 2015 laying out the latest version of Annan’s six-point peace plan from 2012.

This has now led to an “agreement” on the “cessation of hostilities” reached in Munich on February 12.

We are left with an “agreement” that is not really an agreement, but rather only a communique, vaguely worded, inchoate, with all the essential terms yet to be agreed in the future. In domestic law, such an “agreement” is called an “illusory contract” because the most basic terms have been left open. Consequently, it is really not a contract, but rather a mere statement of objectives.

The link to the text is found below in (1).

Here, not even the essential actors are parties to the agreement.

While the diplomats will dither and debate what has been agreed and not yet agreed, Russian warplanes will continue to bomb Aleppo and other rebel-held areas in Syria. Once the Russians have secured their military objectives, they may accede to a “ceasefire” — in order to consolidate and preserve their gains.

One recalls the week-long delay after the Minsk II ceasefire was agreed on February 12, 2014, which allowed the Russians and their puppets in the Donbas to secure the key rail junction of Debaltseve.

Could the coincidence of dates (February 12) have some significance in Russian eyes?

The net effect of the Geneva process and the latest “agreement” in Munich is to offer illusory hopes of an early negotiated settlement to the West and the Arab states, so that they will not undertake actions that might halt the Syrian government and Russian military advances in Syria.


(1) “Syria ‘cessation of hostilities’: full text of the support group’s communique; The full joint communique issued by the International Syria Support Group Meeting in Munich,” Published in The Guardian, February 12, 2016.

(2) Richard Spencer (Middle East Editor), “A ceasefire war criminals don’t have to observe; The latest ‘ceasefire’ deal for Syria turns the the idea of peace on its head: no-one who signed up to it has to observe it, and nor do terrorists or war criminals,” The Telegrapgh, February 12, 2016 (1:16PM GMT).

(3) NOUR MALAS in Beirut, JAY SOLOMON in Washington and NATHAN HODGE in Moscow, “Confusion Reigns Over Syria Cease-Fire Deal; Neither the Syrian regime nor its opponents have given their formal approval,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2016 (Updated Feb. 12, 2016 6:09 p.m.).

(4) Putin’s Syria Victory; John Kerry’s cease-fire lets Assad consolidate his strategic gains,” The Wall street Journal, February 12, 2016 6:34 p.m. ET).

The West should recall what happened with the Arab League ceasefire in 2011, and the ceasefire established by the U.N. Security Council under Resolutions 2042 and 2043 in 2012.

The fighting in Syria between al-Assad and the insurgents against his regime will not be resolved, on terms short of capitulation, until the Syrians and the Russians encounter a coutervailing force that can stop their advances.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.