Al­ge­rian en­voy at­tempts to kick-start peace talks

Both sides re­cently have been fo­cused more on fight­ing.

Austin American-Statesman - - NEWS - By Ned Parker Los An­ge­les Times

BEIRUT — Peace en­voy Lakhdar Brahimi made a new push Thurs­day to draw Syr­ian of­fi­cials and rebels into ne­go­ti­a­tions, aim­ing to re­vive a plan for a tran­si­tional government and elec­tions that fal­tered be­cause of dis­agree­ments over the fu­ture of Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

The ef­fort by the Al­ge­rian diplo­mat came af­ter weeks in which both sides in Syria have been fo­cused more on fight­ing. Rebels ap­pear to be mak­ing gains, seiz­ing mil­i­tary bases and fight­ing for con­trol of sub­urbs around the cap­i­tal, Da­m­as­cus.

Ear­lier this week, the head of Syria’s mil­i­tary po­lice an­nounced he had de­fected, join­ing a num­ber of other of­fi­cers and sol­diers who have de­serted As­sad’s government. Maj. Gen. Ab­dul-Aziz Jassem Shal­lal ac­cused the government of turn­ing into “a gang that is killing and de­stroy­ing.”

In a boost for Brahimi, Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter said af­ter meet­ing with a se­nior Syr­ian of­fi­cial that his coun­try en­dorsed the peace plan crafted in sum­mer, and that Syr­i­ans on both sides of the 21month con­flict needed to en­ter a di­a­logue.

How­ever, any ef­fort to find a peace­ful so­lu­tion could founder on dis­agree­ment over the role of As­sad in a tran­si­tional government.

Washington has de­manded As­sad go. Moscow has dis­tanced it­self from the Syr­ian pres­i­dent in re­cent weeks, but has re­fused to break with As­sad. But even if the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity can agree, the Syr­i­ans them­selves might not go along. As­sad has vowed to stay in of­fice while rebels refuse any­thing less than his ouster.

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