Brahimi to Hold Talks on Syria in Moscow Saturday

The Russian foreign ministry said Lakhdar Brahimi will hold talks in Moscow on Saturday following consultations with President Bashar Assad's regime in Damascus, at his request.


Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will hold talks in Moscow on Saturday following consultations with President Bashar Assad's regime in Damascus, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told ITAR-TASS on Wednesday.


The Russian foreign ministry said Brahimi himself had requested the meeting as he pursues what so far have been fruitless efforts to negotiate an end to 21 months of violence that have claimed more than 45,000 lives.


Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was pushing Brahimi to ensure that the warring sides stick to a June peace plan that calls for a transition of power without making an explicit demand on Assad to step down.


Russia has accused Western and Arab nations of giving up on peace negotiations and has made repeated attempts at negotiating a truce that would let the Syrians themselves decide Assad's fate at a later date.


A Beirut airport source said that Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad also flew to Moscow on Tuesday for consultations that have not yet been officially confirmed by Russia.


ITAR-TASS separately reported, quoting a source, that a "Syrian government delegation" — whose members it did not name — will meet with Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday.


The Syrians' visit comes amid Western media reports of a new Russia-U.S. initiative that would see Assad stay in power until 2014 while preventing him from further renewing his mandate.


U.N. and Arab League envoy Brahimi arrived in Damascus on Sunday and has also met with leaders of a regime-sanctioned opposition party that also makes periodic visits to Moscow.


But a U.N. Security Council diplomat said the veteran Algerian diplomat had received no support from any of the warring sides.


Moscow has given several signs in recent weeks that it was ready to concede Assad's imminent ouster and was now looking for a post-regime future in Syria.


President Vladimir Putin said on two occasions last week that Moscow had no intention of propping up the Assad government despite its provision of military support.


The foreign ministry also confirmed that Moscow was drawing up preparations for an evacuation of Russian personnel in case of the armed opposition's rise to power.


Amid a flurry of diplomacy before Russia heads into its lengthy new year holidays, the Russian foreign ministry said Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr would be in Moscow on Thursday and Friday for talks with Lavrov.


It said topics would include the situation in the Middle East, including the search for a diplomatic solution to the Syria conflict.




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