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Damascuss/CAIRO: The international peace negotiator for Syria pleaded with outside countries yesterday to push the warring parties to the table for talks, warning that the country would become a failed state ruled by warlords unless diplomacy is given a chance.
Lakhdar Brahimi, who inherited the seemingly impossible task of bringing an end to the war after his predecessor Kofi Annan resigned in frustration in July, has launched an intensified diplomatic campaign to win backing for a peace plan.
He spent five days this week in Damascus, where he met President Bashar Al Assad. On Saturday he visited Assad’s main international backers in Moscow, and yesterday he travelled to Cairo, where President Mohammed Mursi has emerged as one of Assad’s most vocal Arab opponents.
“The problem is that both sides aren’t speaking to one another,” he said. “This is where help is needed from outside.”
Brahimi’s peace plan - inherited from Annan and agreed to in principle in Geneva in June by countries that both oppose and support Assad - has the seemingly fatal flaw of making no mention of whether Assad would leave power.
The Syrian leader’s opponents - who have seized much of the north and east of the country in the past six months - say they will not cease fire or join any talks unless Assad goes and have largely dismissed Brahimi’s initiative. But Brahimi says the plan is the only one on the table, and predicts “hell” if countries do not push both sides to talk.
“The situation in Syria is bad, very, very bad, and it is getting worse, and the pace of deterioration is increasing,” Brahimi told reporters.
“People are talking about Syria being split into a number of small states ... This is not what will happen. What will happen is Somalisation: warlords.” Somalia has been without effective central government since civil war broke out there in 1991.
More than 45,000 people have been killed in Syria’s 21-month war, the longest and deadliest of the revolts that began sweeping the Arab world two years ago.
The rebels are mainly from the Sunni Muslim majority, fighting against Assad, a member of the Shi’ite-derived Alawite minority sect, giving the war a dangerous sectarian dimension.
The rebels increasingly believe that their military successes of the past half year are bringing victory within reach. But Assad’s forces still hold the densely-populated southwest of the country, the main north-south highway and the Mediterranean coast in the northwest.
The government also holds airbases scattered throughout the country, and has an arsenal including jets, helicopters, missiles and artillery that the fighters cannot match.
Government troops scored a victory on Saturday after several days of fighting, seizing a Sunni district in Homs, a central town that controls the vital road linking Damascus to the coast.
Opposition activists said yesterday that many people had been killed in the Deir Baalbeh district after it was captured, although it was not immediately possible to verify claims that a “massacre” had taken place. The opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said it documented the summary execution of 17 men.
“They were young and old, mostly refugees who had fled to Deir Baalbeh from central parts of Homs,” it said in a statement. Footage taken by activists showed the bodies of eight men with what appeared to be bullet wounds in the face and head.Reuters