Brahimi heads to Moscow for talks on Syrian crisis

Assad has also reportedly dispatched a senior diplomat to Moscow for consultations.

December 28, 2012 05:31
2 minute read.
Int'l peace envoy for Syria Brahimi with Assad.

Brahimi and Assad 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Sana Sana)

UN/Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is heading to Moscow to work out a deal to end the conflict in Syria.

Brahimi, who held talks in Syria with President Bashar Assad and opposition officials over the past week, called for the establishment of a transitional government until elections could take place.

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“I believe the Syrian people need, want and aspire to genuine change, and everyone knows what this means,” he told reporters in Damascus. “A government must be created...with full powers.... This government will hold power during the transitional period.”

Assad has also reportedly dispatched a senior diplomat to Moscow for consultations.

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Syria’s opposition National Coalition said Thursday it would not agree to any solution that did not include removing Assad and his family, the Lebanese Daily Star reported.

France echoed this sentiment, ruling out any role for Assad in an interim government.

Peace talks have so far led nowhere as Moscow has denied rumors of a Russia-US plan to solve the crisis. Assad’s Alawite minority sect is trying to hold on to its positions near Damascus and in northwestern Syria, while the Sunni opposition movement seems to be gaining ground with international support.

Turkey’s daily Aksam reported that Syria’s president has sought asylum in Venezuela, having sent a letter to President Hugo Chavez.

Russia, a key backer of Assad, issued a statement through its Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich: “Our American colleagues and some others... have turned sharply from this position, by 180 degrees, supporting the opposition and conducting no dialogue with the government – putting the opposition in the mood for no dialogue with the authorities but for overthrowing the authorities.”

He added that reports relating to Syria’s use of chemical weapons were meant to draw the West into the conflict.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Assad would not leave even if Russia or China demanded it, and that the only option was “a broad inter-Syrian dialogue and political process.”

The statement followed news on Wednesday that the Syrian military had killed 20 people in Raqqah province’s Qahtaniya village. In addition, Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, Syria’s military police chief, defected from the army and declared his loyalty to the opposition.

Moscow continues a rearguard action as events on the ground continue to shape reality, forcing it continually to adapt its position. Russia has been forced to recognize the possibility that Assad could fall from power. Demonstrating this was news first published in Russia’s Izvestia newspaper that Moscow was preparing a plan to evacuate around 30,000 Russians from Syria.

In a show of force, Russian Marines began anti-terror drills off the Syrian coast involving anti-submarine, anti-ship and air defense exercises.

Meanwhile, the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University released an analysis titled “Russia’s Declining Influence in the Middle East.”

“Russian involvement in the Middle East is presently nothing more than an attempt by Moscow to hold on to its deteriorating position on the international stage,” it stated. “Russia’s support of the Assad regime in Syria has hurt its image and weakened its influence in other Arab countries.

Although it will not be able to provide financial assistance, Russia may try to fill a vacuum should the US scale back its ties to the new Islamist governments in the region.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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