DAMASCUS, March 13, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Children play near an abandoned building in the southern suburbs of Damascus, Syria, March 12, 2016. The Syrian civil war since March 2011 has made the Middle East country the world's single-largest source of refugees and displaced people, according to UN figures. The long-running conflict has claimed at least 250,000 lives and forced over 2 million children out of school. (Xinhua/Yang Zhen)
by Xinhua writer Che Hongliang
DAMASCUS, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The Syria crisis, which is going to brace for its 5th anniversary on Tuesday, has become the most lasting and influential hotspot in the second decade of this century, bringing catastrophic consequences to the country and its people and profoundly affecting the surrounding areas and the wider world.
Analysts say the crux of the long-running crisis is the foreign interference, which has made the situation in the country unusually complicated and stripped Syrians of the right to decide their own fate.
Massive anti-government demonstrations broke out in Syria on March 15, 2011 and gradually evolved into a civil conflict. According to data released by UN agencies, the chronic conflict has killed more than 250,000 people, with 6.6 million being internally displaced.
During the civil conflict, the country has witnessed massive damage of infrastructure and houses, severe deterioration in public services as well as inadequate food supply.
Around 13.5 million Syrians require some form of assistance, of whom 72 percent have no access to drinking water and two million children are out of school, said UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien when he made a visit to Damascus last December.
The conflict has posed severe economic challenges for Syria as pointed out in a World Bank report, which described the economic impact of the conflict as large and growing.
According to the report, Syria's GDP is estimated to have contracted by an average of 15.4 percent for the period 2011-14 and is expected to decline further by nearly 16 percent in 2015.
Meanwhile, public finances have materially worsened since the start of the conflict with fiscal deficit sharply increasing and revenue falling to an all-time low. Serious inflation, sharp devaluation of the currency and dramatically reduced oil production coexisted in the war-ravaged country.
According to a World Bank report, the oil production in Syria declined from 368,000 barrels per day in 2010 to an estimated 40,000 barrels per day in 2015, leading to a big decrease of oil revenues.
The impact of the Syrian crisis has gone far beyond the country's borders. It is reported that 4.6 million Syrians have fled the country to take refuge abroad, causing massive refugee crisis with neighboring countries and Europe.
Another serious consequence of the crisis is the surge of terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) group, which took advantage of the chaos in the country and expanded their forces.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told media recently that Syria can put an end to this crisis in less than a year by moving on two fronts -- fighting terrorism and political action, if there is no foreign interference.
The U.S. policy has been the main drive behind the chaos and the conflict, Osama Danura, a Syrian political researcher holding a PhD in political science, told Xinhua.
Since the very beginning, the U.S. rhetoric has been biased in favor of a magnified insurgency in Syria, by quickly demonizing the administration of President Bashar al-Assad, and accusing him of being illegitimate, told Danura.
Such statements were seen to encourage the insurgency and inflame the situation, by pushing rebel groups to further destabilize Syria, Danura said.
"Such a stance by the U.S. reflects the imperialism of the U.S. administration, by giving itself the right to determine the legitimacy of the Syrian government without paying a heed to the real aspirations of the Syrian people," Danura added.
On the other hand, the United States, through its regional allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have played a role in the creation of the ultra-radical groups in Syria, the political researcher said.
Washington has long been openly supporting what it called "moderate rebels" in Syria, though reports found that aid aimed at these groups often landed in the hands of radical groups such as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and the IS who dominated the battlefield through superior military power.
The analyst said the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the root cause for the chaos that has swept the region, and the power vacuum that came in the wake of Saddam Hussein's downfall was the reason behind the rise of the IS.
The Syrian government has always opposed foreign interference and believed the solution to the crisis lies in the Syrians themselves, a stance which has been gradually advocated by the international community following years of bloodshed.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the Syrian peace process last December, pointing out that the only sustainable solution to the current crisis is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
Chinese ambassador to Syria Wang Kejian told Xinhua that China has opposed the interference in Syria's internal affairs in accordance with the UN regulations and charters.
Wang said China has always advocated the need to resolve the long-running conflict politically, and exerted all efforts in that direction.
He reaffirmed that only negotiations can give the country hope, end the war and eliminate terrorism so that the country and its people can escape from the flames of the war.
DAMASCUS, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian troops are approaching the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria, pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV reported on Sunday.
After capturing two points at the outskirts of the city a day earlier, the military forces have closed in on the ancient city of Palmyra, which fell to the Islamic State (IS) group last May. Full story
DAMASCUS, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian wing of al-Qaida group, Nusra Front, stormed a base and captured weapons from the Western-backed 13th Division rebel group in northwestern Syria on Sunday, pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV reported.
The Nusra Front stormed and captured most of the 13th Division bases as well as the arms depots in the Maraet al-Numan city in the countryside of the northwestern province of Idlib, said the report. Full story
by Xinhua writer Zhang Xu
CAIRO, March 13 (Xinhua) -- A hard-won truce spared Syria a chance to solve its crisis without guns, along with the world's hopes for the upcoming talks in Geneva.
Any progress would be a promising step forward for the war-torn country, which has been a global limelight for five years since the uprising against the President Bashar Assad erupted, so far killing over 270,000 people. Full story