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Engaging the World in Syria

ABU DHABI – A global security crisis of historic proportions is raging in the Middle East, and spreading by the day, as millions of refugees flee Syria and Iraq. The crisis is now affecting not just all of Syria’s immediate neighbors, straining their resources and exacerbating social and ethnic tensions; it now directly involves all of the current permanent members of the Security Council except China. It is time for all would-be permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – namely, Germany, India, Japan, Brazil, and Egypt – to step up.

The desire for a political settlement that could end the Syrian civil war is palpable; but just what that settlement would look like remains open to debate – or to further conflict. Indeed, Russia and the United States are circling each other like boxers before the contest actually begins, supporting different factions and trying to ensure that their allies in the multi-sided conflict are advancing, or at least holding ground.

The need for broad cooperation – and the support of the entire UN Security Council – is apparent. That is why US Secretary of State John Kerry is talking to the Russians, the Saudis, and the Turks to build support for a new round of international talks. And the UN and Arab League’s special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has created a set of working groups, chaired by Europeans, to “create a framework for concrete talks between Syria’s government and opposition.”

In enabling a peace deal, a coalition of countries that are not yet directly involved in the crisis could be very helpful. Such a coalition – involving, say, Germany, India, Japan, Brazil, and Egypt – could increase the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to negotiate by convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin that the world is watching his deal-making efforts closely and that his prestige is on the line.