Coronavirus News Asia

Impact of pandemic hits Middle East conflicts

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The novel coronavirus has put global trade on hold, placed half of the world population in confinement and has the potential to topple governments and reshape diplomatic relations.

The United Nations has appealed for ceasefires in all the major conflicts rocking the planet, with its chief Antonio Guterres on Friday warning “the worst is yet to come”. But it remains unclear what the pandemic’s impact will be on the multiple wars roiling the Middle East.

Here is an overview of the impact so far on the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq:

SYRIA

The Covid-19 outbreak turned into a pandemic just as a ceasefire reached by the two main foreign power brokers in Syria’s nine-year-old war — Russia and Turkey — was taking effect.

The three million people living in the ceasefire zone, in the country’s northwestern region of Idlib, had little hope the deal would hold.

Yet fears the coronavirus could spread like wildfire across the devastated country appear to have given the truce an extended lease of life.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the month of March saw the lowest civilian death toll since the conflict started in 2011, with 103 deaths.

The ability of the multiple administrations in Syria — the Damascus government, the autonomous Kurdish administration in the northeast and the jihadist-led alliance that runs Idlib — to manage the coronavirus threat is key to their credibility.

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