UN envoy to Syria to visit Russia this weekend

AP News
Posted: Dec 26, 2012 9:51 AM
UN envoy to Syria to visit Russia this weekend

MOSCOW (AP) — The international envoy on Syria will visit Moscow this weekend for talks on the crisis, a senior Russian diplomat said Wednesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will arrive in Moscow on one-day visit Saturday, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Brahimi met Monday in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad, but didn't signal any progress toward a negotiated solution for the civil war. Brahimi told reporters after the talks that he and Assad exchanged views on the crisis and discussed possible steps forward, which he did not disclose.

Preceding Brahimi's trip, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous flew early Wednesday to Moscow, according to airport officials in Beirut. The Russian Foreign Ministry made no immediate comment about their mission.

Russia has used its veto right alongside China at the U.N. Security Council to protect its old ally from international sanctions over a civil war that has killed more than 40,000, but it has increasingly sought to distance itself from Assad.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that Moscow would welcome any country's offer of a safe haven to Assad, but has no intention of giving him shelter if he steps down.

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At the same time, Moscow has given no indication that it could end its firm opposition to international sanctions against Assad and calls for him to step down.

Lavrov reaffirmed Russia's call for the fulfillment of a peace plan brokered by Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, that was approved at an international conference in Geneva. On Russia's insistence, the plan left the door open for Assad being part of the transition process and has been rejected by the opposition.