Ottawa Citizen

Rus­sia warns of ‘bloody chaos’ if Syr­ian power-shar­ing plan fails

Op­po­si­tion coali­tion re­jects pro­pos­als

- DAMIEN MCEL­ROY, RUTH SHER­LOCK AND ROBERT TAIT

BEIRUT • Rus­sia warned Thurs­day that Syria would de­scend into “bloody chaos” if a pro­posal from Lakhdar Brahimi, the in­ter­na­tional peace en­voy, to set up a tran­si­tional government fails.

Brahimi chal­lenged those in the con­flict to work to­gether to pave the way for demo­cratic elec­tions and side­line Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

His pro­posal re­ceived strong back­ing from Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov, who said ne­go­ti­a­tions were the only way to end the fight­ing.

“The alternativ­e to a peace­ful so­lu­tion is bloody chaos. The longer it con­tin­ues, the greater its scale — and the worse things get for all,” he said.

Af­ter five days of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the regime in Da­m­as­cus, Brahimi claimed to have the out­line of a power-shar­ing pact but his pro­pos­als were in­stantly re­jected by the main op­po­si­tion coun­cil.

It has been an­gered by the sug­ges­tion that As­sad could stay on as a fig­ure­head de­spite the deaths of 45,000 peo­ple in the fight­ing. The Christ­mas mis­sion by Brahimi and a “soft­en­ing” of Rus­sia’s sup­port for As­sad’s regime has lifted hopes for a diplo­matic end to civil war.

Brahimi said the regime must make pre­vi­ously un­think­able con­ces­sions to the lead­ers of the 21-month upris­ing.

“Change should not be cos­metic — the Syr­ian peo­ple need and re­quire real change, and ev­ery­one un­der­stands what that means,” said Brahimi, the joint United Na­tions-Arab League en­voy.

“We need to form a government with all pow­ers ... which as­sumes power dur­ing a pe­riod of tran­si­tion. That tran­si­tion pe­riod will end with elec­tions.”

Speak­ing be­fore he pre­pared to fly to Moscow on Fri­day, Brahimi warned, how­ever, that there must not be a “col­lapse of the state or the state’s in­sti­tu­tions” dur­ing any power-shar­ing pe­riod.

Yasser Tab­bara, a spokesman for the Syria Op­po­si­tion Coali­tion, said the terms out­lined by the en­voy were un­ac­cept­able. “It has been the po­si­tion of the coali­tion that we need to find a quick so­lu­tion on the is­sue of Bashar As­sad step­ping down,” he said. “The pri­or­ity of the coali­tion is to pre­serve lives and fin­ish this with the least ca­su­al­ties. The plans pro­posed by Lakhdar Brahimi are out of touch with re­al­ity. The plan takes us back months and months, if not years.”

Moaz al-Khatib, the coali­tion leader, flatly dis­missed Brahimi’s pro­pos­als in a Face­book post­ing ear­lier this week.

Moscow has en­gaged in a flurry of diplo­matic ac­tiv­ity to pro­mote power shar­ing and its view that there will be no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to the con­flict. Lavrov on Thurs­day met Faisal Mek­dad, the Syr­ian deputy for­eign min­is­ter and As­sad’s cousin, to press Da­m­as­cus to co­op­er­ate with Brahimi.

Grass­roots rebel sup­port­ers be­lieve the Brahimi mis­sion is a dis­trac­tion at a time when fight­ers have ad­vanced to the gates of the pres­i­den­tial palace in Da­m­as­cus.

Alarm over Syria’s dis­in­te­gra­tion led to cri­sis talks be­tween Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and King Ab­dul­lah of Jor­dan about the fate of Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons. Is­rael fears the weapons could fall into the hands of Is­lamists fight­ing As­sad or the Le­banese Shia group Hezbol­lah, an Iran ally.

 ?? SANA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ?? Lakhdar Brahimi, UN-Arab League deputy to Syria, charged with push­ing to end Syria’s civil war, has called for a tran­si­tional government to run the coun­try un­til new elec­tions are held.
SANA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Lakhdar Brahimi, UN-Arab League deputy to Syria, charged with push­ing to end Syria’s civil war, has called for a tran­si­tional government to run the coun­try un­til new elec­tions are held.

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