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Migrant crisis: UN renews push for peace plan to end fighting in Syria -

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ELEANOR HALL: Well, many of those trying to reach Europe are fleeing the civil war in Syria.

But while the United Nations is working on a draft peace plan, the conflict is escalating daily, as Barney Porter reports.

BARNEY PORTER: Almost a quarter of a million people have been killed in Syria's four year conflict which evolved from a popular anti-government movement, to a brutal multi-front civil war.

Around 11 million others have been displaced, including around 4 million who have fled the country.

Overnight, reports emerged that the UN's Special Envoy for Syria, Staffaan di Mistura, has renewed his push to find a political solution to the crisis.

Al Jazeera is reporting leaked documents from his draft plan suggest the roadmap would include a ceasefire; a transitional phase - with power shared by both opposition and government officials; then elections overseen by the UN.

However, there's no mention of any possible role for president Bashir al-Assad.

Fawaz Gerges is a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

FAWAZ GERGES: The ideas are great but how do you translate the agreement into a concrete basically peace initiative? How do you convince Assad to surrender his executive authority to the opposition and how do you convince the opposition to keep Assad in place even with symbolic power?

BARNEY PORTER: Dr Anthony Billingsley is a lecturer in International Studies at the University of New South Wales.

ANTHONY BILLINGSLEY: I think we have to have a peace plan somewhere along the line. Diplomacy has to be the way to solve the problem.

Now there've been very little indication from the various parties up until now and we've had a series of plans. Kofi Annan had one; his successor had one, and last year the Security Council adopted a plan with four different committees looking at different aspects and this was restated again earlier this year.

We had a meeting of foreign ministers: the secretary of state of the US, the foreign minister of Russia, the foreign minister of the Saudis a month or so ago now talking about a plan. They didn't go very far; they didn't agree, but they're starting to talk about it.

If we could get past the Americans obsession with Bashar al-Assad must go, and look more seriously, I think that's been an excuse for not taking any action up until now. Perhaps, with the change in the US relationship with Iran, we might see something coming out of that as well, and you may get some sort of momentum at the international level which would fit suggestions that have been coming out over quite a while now involving elections.

A some sort of national unity government which would have to involve compromises from both sides. You know, there is a possibility of that down the track, and you know, as we're seeing in the media at the moment, something has to be done.

BARNEY PORTER: How far down the track?

ANTHONY BILLINGSLEY: The sooner the better obviously. I think that, you know, the Europeans are going to have to start taking a much stronger line on this, a much more active, and when I say stronger I don't mean they've got to be firmer with different people, but a much more active line trying to force some sort of diplomatic solution because the Europeans, I would say, can't tolerate what's going on now for much longer.

It's really starting to hurt.

BARNEY PORTER: At the same time, the Australian Government is considering a formal request from the US for Australian assets in the region to join coalition air strikes against IS targets in Syria. That's looking towards a perhaps military solution. Is that a quicker path to go down?

ANTHONY BILLINGSLEY: No. It's been, it's been stated fairly clearly by American military officials and politicians that basically, the air war and the ground war is not working, is not defeating Islamic State.

I think we've got to be a little bit smarter than pursuing this military route and again, Australia has a certain capacity to promote diplomatic solutions to a whole lot of things, as we saw with the Security Council.

Why aren't we out there instead pushing governments to work towards a real plan, a real diplomatic solution?

BARNEY PORTER: But a solution that's yet to be agreed upon.

ELEANOR HALL: Barney Porter.