As is normal when peace negotiations loom, the approach of the Geneva II conference scheduled for 22 January has witnessed something of an upsurge of violence in the struggle between regime and rebels in Syria.
But this is no normal conflict, and there is no guarantee at all that the conference—which diplomats insist is not an event, but the start of a process expected to last months—will produce an end to the carnage.
While it is highly unlikely that a whistle will blow and the guns will have to fall silent, the two sides are clearly trying to enhance their positions on the ground so that they can go into the talks—assuming they take place—looking as strong as possible.
At the moment, the regime side looks in slightly better shape than the rebels. But it is clearly not in a position to sweep the board and regain control of the country. The overall picture, despite daily upsets and advances here and there, remains one of stalemate.