- Special Pages
A Syrian refugee girl carries a gas canister while entering her tent in Al Marj in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, yesterday.
MOSCOW/damascus: Russia yesterday warned of “bloody chaos” in Syria should peace talks led by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi fail to end a 21 month conflict that has claimed an estimated 45,000 lives.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the United States and other players must redouble their efforts amid fading hopes for a political solution to the bloodshed.
“The alternative to a peaceful solution is bloody chaos. The longer it continues, the greater its scale - and the worse things get for all,” Lavrov told the Interfax news agency.
Lavrov’s comments followed a meeting with a senior Syrian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad.
Russia remains Syria’s most important international ally and is one of the few nations to have unlimited access to President Bashar Al Assad’s government.
Lavrov’s meeting with the Syrians came as Brahimi wound down several days of talks in Damascus by calling for “real change” and the quick introduction of a transition government “with all powers”.
Assad’s government has still not responded to Brahimi’s call.
Lavrov emphasised the urgent need to end the 21-month-old conflict during a meeting with Faisal Makdad, Russia’s foreign ministry said.
“The Russian side underscored the lack of an alternative to a peaceful resolution of (Syria’s) internal conflict through a broad inter-Syrian dialogue and political process,” a statement said. But it made no mention of ways to achieve those goals.
Lavrov called for robust efforts to hammer out a solution based on an agreement reached by world powers in Geneva in June that called for a political transition.
“Considering what is going on in Syria, the chances of reaching such a solution ... are decreasing. But there is still a chance and we must fight for it,” Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying.
At a weekly briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich played down the idea that a specific new proposal agreed by Moscow and Washington was on the table in Moscow talks. “There has not been and is no such plan,” he said.
“In our talks with Mr Brahimi and with our American colleagues, we are trying to feel a way out of this situation on the basis of our common plan of action that was agreed in Geneva in June,” Lukashevich said. Although the Kremlin has tried to distance itself from Assad, Lukashevich reiterated its stance that Assad’s exit from power could not be a precondition for negotiations.
Setting such a condition, he said, would violate the terms of the agreement reached in Geneva on June 30, which called for a transitional government but left Assad’s role unclear. The United States said it sent a clear message that he must quit and Moscow said it did nothing of the kind.
Lukashevich said Russia continued to believe there was “no alternative” to the Geneva agreement and repeated accusations that the United States has reneged on it. “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 said Reuters/AFP