COVID-19’s impact on major armed conflicts across the globe

The UN has called on countries to cease hostilities around the globe, lift sanctions and focus on the fight against today’s common enemy, the coronavirus pandemic. Izvestia interviewed experts, who commented on the potential impact of the outbreak on efforts to resolve some major armed conflicts, in particular, in Ukraine, Libya and Syria.

News about the COVID-19 epidemic came at the beginning of this year, but that did not prevent the escalation in Syria or ceasefire violations in Libya, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov noted. "We can see now that the virus divides the world," he said.

So far, there has been no substantial reduction in the number of shelling attacks in Donbass, so, the epidemic has had no significant effect on the course of the conflict, Mikhail Pogrebinsky, Director of the Kiev Center for Political Studies and Conflictology, said referring to the hostilities in eastern Ukraine. He noted though that people in Ukraine did not trust statistics about the number of infected people. "Testing systems are expected to begin working soon, and then the influence of the virus on politics will be clear," he noted.

Due to their domestic problems, external players are ready to pay less attention to the conflict in Libya than before the pandemic, so their participation in both proxy wars and the peace process is declining, Head of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies Vasily Kuznetsov explained to Izvestia. "Another important factor is the reduction of international trade. The parties have less resources to continue the conflict. However, one cannot say that this will result in a full-scale ceasefire," he said.

According to political commentators, the pandemic has had no effect on the state of affairs in Syria’s Idlib province, which has been the chief hotbed of tension in recent months. "The players — Turkey, Russia and Syria — will probably shift part of their attention to the situation inside their countries. However, Ankara’s armed forces remain in the part of Idlib controlled by pro-Turkish groups and terrorists," Head of the Center for the Near and Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Vladimir Fitin said, adding that the pandemic is unlikely to result in long-term stabilization in the region.

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