The road to ending violence in Syria goes through Homs

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The great city of Homs appears to be finally ridding itself of violence as rebel fighters have left under an agreement with the Syrian Government of Bashar Assad. Arab satellite channels are transmitting moving images of residents returning to Homs. They are shocked by the destruction to homes and livelihoods but all were determined to rebuild. That is the great spirit that Syrians are known for. I personally spent many happy stopovers in Homs in my youth travelling to Aleppo and then Turkey. Fantastic Arabic sweets from Alnatour were a must and a highlight.

Homs is not only important at a personal level to those returning but is hugely significant to the hope that we all hold to an end to the violence and the return of the millions of displaced Syrians and those refugees in neighbouring countries. Control of the Capital Damascus, Homs and Latakia is essential to the contiguous integrity of Syria and once violence ends in Aleppo and most of the major cities are back in Government hands, I predict the rebels, particularly foreigners, will begin to withdraw and look for another unfortunate country to devastate. I fear for Iraq.

It is if course early days but it appears the rebels and those behind them are losing the battle with Government forces. Their well organised withdrawal from Homs is a good model for other areas.

The Presidential elections come at a critical time. If they are free and fair, they could further pull the rug from under the feet of those that want to see Syria weak and destroyed and even possibly broken up. If not, then this could boost the rebels and prolong the violence.

A united, strong, democratic Syria is essential for a thriving Middle East. Syria was one if the most productive countries in the Middle East and Syrian entrepreneurs could regenerate its economy more quickly than some think. The change in leadership in Iran can also play a role in helping Syria reemerge and regenerate.

The suffering in Syria has gone on for too long. The end of violence in Homs can provide the model needed for ending the violence across Syria.

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