Last updated: May 19. 2013 9:44PM - 544 Views

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As the poison from Syria’s civil war spreads, the pace of diplomatic exchanges is quickening. At the White House, David Cameron, fresh from meeting Vladimir Putin on the Black Sea, briefed Barack Obama on the Russian president’s latest thinking. Also on the agenda was the G8 conference which the Prime Minister is due to host in Fermanagh next month.

Once again, Britain is playing an important mediatory role between Moscow and Washington, this time in an attempt to defuse the most agonizing political dilemma faced by the great powers since Bosnia-Herzegovina was ripped apart in the 1990s.

The key to ending that conflict was NATO intervention. Chastened by more recent experiences, the alliance has held back from direct military action in Syria. Meanwhile, the involvement of neighbors has been incremental, whether in the supply of arms by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar or the flood of refugees that threatens to overwhelm Jordan.

This month, however, has seen a dramatic increase in tempo, with two air strikes by Israel on Syria and the killing of 46 people in bomb explosions in the Turkish town of Reyhanli.

Both incidents should serve as an ominous warning to Bashar al-Assad, who, by continuing to send arms to Hizbollah, has drawn the most formidable military force in the region into the conflict, and, by blaming Turkey for the Reyhanli bombings, has antagonized the outside power best placed to topple him.

However reluctantly, alliance members are being pushed toward direct involvement. The alternative is to watch impotently as Syria drags the whole region into the abyss.

The Telegraph (London)

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