Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad surprised everyone when he left his country for the first time since the start of the Syrian crisis to visit Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The implications, however, are unsurprising. Russia stands firmly and now officially, behind the Syrian regime – the stance that was declared by the Russian military intervention has been politically reiterated. The United States of America is predictably fuming, and it has ample justification to be. President Assad’s regime has brutally repressed the uprising in Syria, using heavy weapons against their own population, and is accused by the US of going so far as to use chemical weapons. A handshake with Putin legitimises all that. The facts are disputed, and both sides base their actions on the ‘terrorism’ platitude – the debate can rage on forever.

What can easily be a cause for rising tensions can also be the cause of a relatively peaceful Middle East.

Legal and political arguments over propriety aside, there is a massive human cost to the crisis in the Middle East. A refuge crisis in Europe and its resulting increase in xenophobia, the death and destruction in Syria, its spillover effects in Iraq, Libya and Turkey, adventurism by Iran in Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Yemen, all of these are rooted in Syrian civil war. It is Syrian territory that supports and supplies Islamic State, and hence supports the global threat and Al-Qaeda compulsion to respond. This human cost surely outweighs any legal or politically normative ideas. A political solution that sees the Syrian regime maintain power but sees Assad step down – at least officially – is not an easy pill to swallow, but perhaps getting a handle on the Syrian civil war would make the other problems relatively manageable.

That is the silver lining in the Moscow meeting; Assad has indicated that he is willing to compromise. Will the solution be acceptable to the Syrian people, or more importantly, the west remains to be seen. The danger is that a change in policy will feel too much like a defeat, in the same manner as the Iran Nuclear deal was presented as a defeat. It is hoped that the horror of the conditions in Syria can change such opinions… that the survival of humanity is not trumped by power concerns in another cold war.