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    A rebel fighter fires a heavy machine gun during clashes with government forces and pro-regime shabiha militiamen in the outskirts of Syria's northwestern Idlib province on September 18, 2015

    These 10 Conflicts Could Escalate Into a Major War

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    Ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, as well as tensions in the South China Sea and violence in the Lake Chad basin could escalate into major wars, which – if unresolved – would spell catastrophe for the region, if not the world, former French diplomat Jean-Marie Guéhenno asserted.

    Current trends indicate that when it comes to conflicts in all regions of the world things are not getting better.

    "For 20 years after the end of the Cold War, deadly conflict was in decline. Fewer wars were killing fewer people the world over. Five years ago, however, that positive trend went into reverse, and each year since has seen more conflict, more victims, and more people displaced. 2016 is unlikely to bring an improvement from the woes of 2015: It is war – not peace – that has momentum," Guéhenno noted.

    The former French diplomat named ten major conflicts, which require the immediate attention of the international community, in an opinion piece for Foreign Policy. In his view, the Syrian war is "the world's gravest," but it is not unresolvable. 

    "The pace of diplomatic action has quickened, spurred in part by Russia's military intervention in Syria in September and the Islamic State-sponsored terrorist attacks in Paris in November. While the growing internationalization of the conflict presents many dangers, it may also open possibilities for diplomacy," he observed.

    Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen
    © AP Photo / Hani Mohammed
    Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen

    Iraq and Yemen run the risk of being torn apart along sectarian lines, while Turkey has seen its conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) escalate to levels unseen in two decades. The deadly power struggle in Libya is fueling conflicts across the Sahel, including in Mali and the Lake Chad basin.

    In Africa, Boko Haram has turned into a "resilient, adaptable, and mobile" terrorist group, capable of unleashing violence in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, the former French diplomat noted.

    An aerial file photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015
    © AP Photo / Ritchie B. Tongo
    An aerial file photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015

    "The South China Sea risks becoming a theater of big-power competition, as the United States challenges China's large-scale land reclamation and construction on several disputed reefs," Guéhenno noted.

    Tensions between Beijing and Washington escalated following a series of incidents in what is one of the world's key waterways. The major ones included the US sending a spy plane and a warship on a freedom of navigation to artificial islands, claimed by China.

    Other major conflicts Guéhenno mentioned in his list include Burundi, Afghanistan and Colombia. The last one, in his view, offers a glimmer of hope, since the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) appear to be heading for a comprehensive agreement, which is meant to put an end to a decades-long armed conflict.

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    Tags:
    Syrian conflict, conflict zones, conflicts, counterterrorism, Boko Haram, Daesh, South China Sea, Colombia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria
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