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The Right Path to a Syrian Accord

End Atrocities to Build Trust

Men ride bicycles in Douma, Syria, October 2015. Bassam Khabieh / REUTERS

As Syrian civilians suffer ceaseless indiscriminate attacks, millions of their compatriots flee their homes, and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS) extends its killing beyond Syria and Iraq, the only good news coming out of the Middle East's most violent conflict is that the contours of a deal to end it have become clearer. After talks in Vienna in late October, the main foreign actors in Syria’s civil war issued a declaration outlining the principles that could guide some of the conflict’s combatants toward a political settlement. The Vienna declaration calls for secular governance, the eventual defeat of ISIS “and other terrorist groups,” the maintenance of the country’s prewar borders, and the protection of minority groups and state institutions, among other provisions. Yet it fails to address a key issue: how the warring parties might build the trust needed to achieve such goals. As negotiators

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