Donald Trump announced the Islamic State’s "defeat" in Syria and the withdrawal of US troops. For Mgr Audo, the end of the war is nearer. Plans for an autonomous Kurdish region is less appealing among Kurds. For the prelate, the agreement between Moscow and Washington will be the final act. Christians should help Muslims overcome fundamentalism.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – The withdrawal of US troops "is further confirmation that the conflict in Syria, albeit in a slow and laborious way, is heading towards an end" so that the country now can seek a long-term "solution" to build its future, said Mgr Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo and ex-president of Caritas Syria.
Reacting to US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of the country after declaring the defeat of the Islamic State group, the prelate said that "The general impression in the country is that the war is coming to an end".
Mgr Audo recently visited several parishes in north-eastern Syria, where most US troops are stationed and where he spoke with Christians and Kurds. "There is a widespread feeling that Syrian unity is being re-established. Peace and unity are now the dominant ideas" even though fighting has not completely ended.
In his view, "90 per cent of Kurds do not believe in their own autonomous state because they lack the numbers and the strength to run it. This is why they feel that it is better to come under the umbrella of the Syrian state."
Despite concerns at home (Pentagon) and among US allies, especially the United Kingdom, US President Donald Trump announced yesterday the beginning of the withdrawal of US troops from north-eastern Syria,
According to critics, the departure of US soldiers will help the Islamic State group and leave Washington’s Kurdish allies in the Kurdish area on the Turkish-Syrian border at the mercy of their enemies. Some 2,000 US troops, mostly special forces fighting the Islamic State, are stationed in the area.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is one of Mr Trump's supporters, called the withdrawal decision a "huge Obama-like mistake”, warning that the pull-out would have "devastating consequences" both in Syria and beyond.
Reacting to the US decision, the United Kingdom also expressed doubts, noting that the Islamic State remained a threat. “Much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat they pose. Even without territory, Daesh (Islamic State) will remain a threat,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
Striking a different tone, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the US decision could result in "genuine, real prospects for a political settlement" in Syria.
For Mgr Audo, the Syrian crisis will be settled by an "agreement between the Americans and the Russians, in which each side will hold influence on a different part of the country".
Thus, life will "resume" even if that moment has not arrived yet. "We cannot say that the war is really over. There is still some fighting in Idlib and Daraa. However, the general agreement is that we have entered another phase."
When asked about the Islamic State’s "defeat", the prelate said the issue is "complicated. Daesh is an artificial creation that has been functional to the war, the war agenda, and now has done its job".
The basic problem of Islamic extremism and the movements inspired by it lies "within that religion and touches how it deals with modernity, freedom of conscience, and the Sunni-Shia rival fuelled from outside".
With this in mind, "we as Christians and as Catholic Church can help by promoting dialogue and exchange. Such a challenge is also our vocation.”