Po­lit­i­cal process or hell?

UN en­voy minces no words about Syria; Moscow meet­ing brings no peace plan

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - BOOKS - — Agen­cies

A Free Syr­ian Army fighter jokes with a child in the old city of Aleppo on Fri­day Moscow: The in­ter­na­tional me­di­a­tor seek­ing peace in Syria warned of “hell” if no deal is struck to end 21 months of blood­shed, but his talks in Rus­sia cap­ping a week of in­tense di­plo­macy brought no sign of a break­through.

UN- Arab League en­voy Lakhdar Brahimi and Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov both said there was still a chance for a ne­go­ti­ated so­lu­tion to the con­flict, which has killed more than 44,000 peo­ple and set world pow­ers against one an­other.

But Lavrov firmly re­peated Rus­sia’s stance that Pres­i­dent Bashar al- As­sad’s exit can­not be a pre­con­di­tion for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion, say­ing that such de­mands were “wrong” and that the op­po­si­tion’s re­fusal to talk to the government was a “dead end”.

“If the only alternative is really hell or a po­lit­i­cal process. then all of us must work cease­lessly for a po­lit­i­cal process,” Brahimi said. “It is dif­fi­cult, it is very com­pli­cated but there is no other choice.”

Lavrov is­sued a sim­i­lar ex­hor­ta­tion in a joint ap­pear­ance at an or­nate man­sion where he meets for­eign dig­ni­taries, say­ing: “The chance for a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment re­mains and it is our obli­ga­tion to make max­i­mal use of that chance.”

But Lavrov, whose coun­try has ve­toed three UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions meant to put pres­sure on As­sad, gave no in­di­ca­tion it would back down from that stance.

“When the op­po­si­tion says only As­sad’s exit will al­low it to be­gin a di­a­logue about the fu­ture of its own coun­try, we think this is wrong, we think this is rather coun­ter­pro­duc­tive,” he said. “The costs of this pre­con­di­tion are more and more lives of Syr­ian ci­ti­zens.”

Rus­sia has tried to dis­tance it­self from As­sad for months and seems to have stepped up its calls for a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion as the rebels have gained ground against government forces in the con­flict, which has be­gan with peace­ful protests in March 2011 but which has de­scended into a civil war.

How­ever, Lavrov noted that As­sad has said pub­licly and pri­vately that he would not go, adding that Rus­sia “does not have the abil­ity to change this”.

Brahimi is try­ing to build on a plan agreed in Geneva in June by the United States, Rus­sia and other pow­ers that called for a tran­si­tional government but left As­sad’s role un­clear.

“The core of that po­lit­i­cal process ... is and must be the Geneva agree­ment,” said Brahimi, who took over as the UNArab League en­voy af­ter Kofi An­nan quit in frus­tra­tion at di­vi­sions among world pow­ers, chiefly the United States and Rus­sia, and the fail­ure of the Geneva ac­cord to bring a res­o­lu­tion closer.

“There may be one or two lit­tle ad­just­ments to make here and there, but it is a rea­son­able ba­sis for a po­lit­i­cal process that will help the Syr­ian peo­ple,” he said, with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

— Reuters

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