From peaceful protest to armed uprising, to chemical weapons, cruise missiles and the military involvement of the United States and latterly Russia, the unraveling of Syrian society has continued over five years of tragic consequences. Multimedia Display (no reporter narration).
MULTIMEDIA DISPLAY (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Syria peace talks due to begin in Geneva this week look set to struggle with the sides showing no sign of compromise over the issue at the heart of the five-year-long conflict: the future of President Bashar al-Assad. The U.N.-led talks getting underway on Monday (March 13) with U.S. and Russian support are part of the first serious diplomatic effort towards ending the conflict since Moscow intervened last September with air strikes that have tipped the war Assad's way. With the crisis approaching its fifth anniversary this week, Western states seem more determined than ever to bring an end to a war that has driven hundreds of thousands of refugees towards Europe and helped the rise of Islamic State. But while recent cooperation between the United States and Russia has helped to reduce the level of violence and brought the parties to Geneva, the positions of the government and opposition reveal little ground for a negotiated settlement. The five-year Syrian civil war has killed more than a quarter of a million people and created a massive refugee crisis for Lebanon, Turkey and the European Union. Assad's security crackdown transformed Syria's largely peaceful protest movement in March 2011 into an armed insurgency in the first year of the revolt, and since then opposition formations have been increasingly overtaken by Islamist groups, notably Islamic State and the Nursa Front. In five years, 250,000 Syrians have been killed and a refugee crisis created in the country's neighbors and into Europe.