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Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (right) with UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on his arrival at Baghdad’s international airport, yesterday.
DAMASCUS: UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called yesterday for a ceasefire in Syria during the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha, as the revolt entered its 20th month with a death toll of more than 33,000.
Brahimi made his call as he shuttled between Syria’s neighbours, which have been bitterly divided by the conflict along the confessional lines that have traditionally riven the Islamic world.
He was in Shia-majority Iraq after holding talks in Shia-ruled Iran, closest ally of the minority Alawite-dominated Syrian regime of President Bashar Al Assad.
Late last week, Brahimi visited Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the two Sunni-led states which have been the biggest champions of the Syrian opposition.
Later yesterday he arrived in Cairo to meet Egyptian officials.
Meanwhile, Turkey gave the greenlight yesterday for the departure of an Armenian plane to Syria’s battered second city of Aleppo after ordering it to land for a routine security check, officials said.
Officials said no suspect cargo turned up during the stop in eastern Erzurum city, unlike last week when Turkey forced a Damascus bound Syrian civlian flight from Moscow to land in Ankara, sparking tension with Russia and Syria.
“The plane’s cargo was loaded back. Its doors were closed... The plane will take off in about an hour,” Ozgur Arslan, deputy governor of Erzurum province in eastern Turkey, told Anatolia news agency.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc earlier said the plane was allowed to resume its journey after the inspection.
“We know a plane from Armenia was forced to land in (eastern) Erzurum city... but it was allowed to resume its journey,” the state news agency quoted Arinc as saying.
Arinc said that the cargo on the plane matched the manifest handed in by the crew prior to the flight but the security check showed “how well Turkey performed its duty.”
“Brahimi has appealed to the Iranian authorities to assist in achieving a ceasefire in Syria during the forthcoming Eid Al Adha,” a statement from the envoy said.
“He reiterated the call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a ceasefire and a halt to the flow of arms to both sides. A ceasefire, he said, would help create an environment that would allow a political process to develop.”
But Brahimi denied a claim by Ahmed Ramadan, an official from the main opposition Syrian National Council, that he sought a peacekeeping force.
“You’ve read that I have asked for peacekeeping,” Brahimi told reporters in Baghdad. “I haven’t.”
Iran proposed to Brahimi a political transition supervised by Assad, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdolahian said, an idea unlikely to be acceptable to the opposition.
Brahimi said he welcomed all input. “We hope all these ideas gather into a project to put an end to the Syrian people’s nightmare,” he said.
The matching bans on flights came amid increasing tensions on the long border between Syria and Turkey, large swathes of which have been seized by rebels.
Inside Syria, at least 16 soldiers were killed around two checkpoints near the commercial capital of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Near one checkpoint, troops killed the driver of a vehicle carrying three tonnes of explosives that he intended to detonate, a security source said.
Aleppo has seen intense conflict for the past three months, including in the city’s Unesco-listed historic heart, with damage to both the ancient covered market, or souk, and the landmark 13th Century Umayyad Mosque.
A day after troops recaptured the complex from rebels, spent cartridges and broken glass still littered the ground, a correspondent reported. Fire had destroyed some of the antique carpets and wooden furnishings that used to adorn it and charred one of its intricately sculpted colonnades.
At least 50 people were killed nationwide Monday, including three children who died in army shelling in the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border, the Observatory said.