Ending Syria crisis politically possible

Updated: 2012-12-10 15:20


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DAMASCUS/GENEVA - The UN Syria envoy said Sunday senior US and Russian diplomats agreed it is still possible to restore peace in the conflict-torn country politically, while Moscow denied any talks with Syria on President Bashar al-Assad's future.

Lakdhar Brahimi, the joint special representative of the United Nations and the Arab League on Syria, held closed-door talks in Geneva with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to discuss the crisis in Syria.

He said in a statement that the meeting was "constructive," and the two diplomats agreed that "a political process to end the crisis in Syria was necessary and still possible."

"It explored avenues to move forward a peaceful process and mobilize greater international action in favor of a political solution to the Syrian crisis," he said.

"They also agreed that a political solution would be based on the core elements of the Action Group Geneva Communique of June 30 2012," he added.

Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi said on Sunday he hoped the United States and Russia could reconcile their stances over Syria so as to facilitate a settlement of the crisis.

Russia and the United States have disagreed with each other over how to end the 20-month-long crisis. Washington said Russia intended to protect the Assad government, while Moscow accused the United States of encouraging the Syrian rebels to achieve regime change.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was not holding talks with anyone on Syrian President al-Assad's future.

The priority to solve the crisis should be forcing all parties involved to lay down their weapons instead of talking endlessly about Assad's fate, Lavrov said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin's election agents.

Lavrov reiterated Moscow's stance on Syria, calling for a Geneva meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the Arab League countries.

He also urged the full implementation of the Geneva communique as a basis for the political settlement of the crisis and complained that some of Russia's Western partners have departed from former agreements.

Meanwhile, foreign players should exert their influences on the conflicting sides in Syria and urge them to stop violence immediately and go back to the negotiating table, said Lavrov.

Moscow has not changed its mind and would do its utmost to end the prolonged violence in Syria as soon as possible, he said.

Earlier, the top Russian diplomat met with his US counterpart Hillary Clinton and the international envoy Brahim in Dublin on Thursday.

Clinton said there had been no "great breakthrough" in their talks, but added that further meetings between them would be held.

Also on Sunday, the Syrian conflict spilled over into neighboring Lebanon once again.

Fightings between pro-and anti-Assad gunmen took place in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli when bodies of three Lebanese, who were killed while fighting in Syria, were brought back home for burial, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Sunday's fightings have left four people dead and 12 wounded, the agency said. The Lebanese Armed Forces' command said two Lebanese soldiers were also injured.

Syria's civil conflicts have sporadically spilt into its neighbors like Turkey, Lebanon and Israel.

In Syria, fightings between rebel fighters and government troops have concentrated in the northern Idlib province, the Damascus suburbs and northern city Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Israeli media reported on Sunday that Israeli special forces are operating in Syria to monitor the country's stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

The cross-border operation is "part of a secret war" to trail Damascus' non-conventional armaments and "sabotage their development," Ynet News website quoted the Sunday Times of Britain as reporting.

The report came amid growing anxieties in the West that a "desperate" Assad is geared to use chemical weapons against opposition forces closing in on Damascus.

"For years we've known the exact location of Syria's chemical and biological munitions," an Israeli source told the Sunday Times, referring to the Jewish state's spy satellites, reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.

"But in the past week we've got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations," it added.

Several Western countries, led by the United States, issued strong warnings last week to Assad not to use non-conventional arms, which foreign experts believe include both chemical agents, such as mustard gas, and nerve agents, such as VX and Sarin.

Syria on Thursday reiterated it has no intention to use WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) to end its turmoil that has so far claimed some 40,000 lives.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad Thursday told Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV that his government "would never use chemical weapons, even if it had them, against its own people."