‘Syria vote would threaten talks’

 14 Mar 2014 - 5:11


Syrian refugees prepare to release red balloons at Al Zaatari refugee camp, the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, to raise awareness about the Syrian conflict on its third anniversary.

UNITED NATIONS: The international mediator on Syria warned yesterday that any presidential election in the country in the coming months would imperil efforts to negotiate an end to the three-year civil war.
“If there is an election, my suspicion is the opposition, all the oppositions will probably not be interested in talking to the government,” said UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Damascus has not officially announced a presidential election but Bashar Al Assad is expected to seek a new seven-year term in the middle of this year despite the raging conflict.
The war has killed more than 140,000 people and displaced millions since the unrest began in March 2011.
Brahimi briefed the UN Security Council on the conflict and the collapse in February of a second round of peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva.
Brahimi broke off the talks to give the government and opposition an opportunity to take stock, and without setting a date for another round of negotiations.
“We would like the help of the Council and all those who can help to make sure that if and when we have a third round it will be a little bit more productive than the second one,” he said.
Russia and the United States have been at odds for years over Syria and with both countries now at loggerheads over Ukraine, Western diplomats fear Moscow is in no mood to further pressure Damascus.
Brahimi refused to be drawn by reporters on whether he had made a specific appeal to Russia. 
The three-hour session ended with the Council unable to agree on a joint press statement, said Luxembourg ambassador Sylvie Lucas, whose country holds the body’s rotating presidency. 
She said there had been “some discussion” about Brahimi’s view that “plans to hold presidential elections in the coming months would be incompatible with the Geneva process”.
Diplomats have said there cannot be a third round of peace talks unless both sides agree on the agenda and approach.

Fighting in Lebanon kills two

TRIPOLI: Fighting between rival sects in Lebanon’s second city killed two people yesterday, security and medical sources said, in violence stoked by the war in neighbouring Syria. 
Clashes between Sunni Muslims and members of the Shia-derived Alawite sect in the northern city of Tripoli broke out after gunmen shot a Sunni man who had Alawite family members and lived in a mostly Alawite area of the city, the sources said.
The man later died of his wounds and at least 14 people were wounded in the ensuing clashes, including two soldiers and one gendarme, after Lebanon’s security services sent reinforcements to restore order. 
A 10-year-old girl was killed by sniper fire as residents in the Sunni Bab Al Tabbaneh and Alawite Jabal Mohsen areas exchanged fire, Lebanon’s National News Agency said.