Syria backs talks to end conflict

2012-12-31 16:02
Lakhdar Brahimi. (Nasser Nasser, AP)

Lakhdar Brahimi. (Nasser Nasser, AP)

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Damascus - Syria's government on Monday welcomed any initiative for talks to end bloodshed in the country, after UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he had a peace plan acceptable to all sides.

The Damascus regime's latest stand, expressed by Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi, came amid a flurry of diplomatic activity led by Brahimi to find ways to end the 21-month conflict.

"The government is working to support the national reconciliation project and will respond to any regional or international initiative that would solve the current crisis through dialogue and peaceful means and prevent foreign intervention in Syria's internal affairs," Halaqi told parliament.

Halaqi emphasised the revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has cost an estimated 45 000 lives, must be resolved only by the Syrian people, "without external pressures or decrees".

The country, he said, was "moving toward a historic moment when it will declare victory over its enemies, with the goal of positioning Syria to build a new world order that promotes national sovereignty and the concept of international law".

Halaqi's remarks came after Brahimi said the Syrian conflict was worsening "by the day".

Ceasefire plan

Speaking after talks in Russia, the veteran Algerian troubleshooter said on Sunday he had crafted a ceasefire plan "that could be adopted by the international community".

"I have discussed this plan with Russia and Syria... I think this proposal could be adopted by the international community," Brahimi said, without revealing any details.

"There is a proposal for a political solution based on the Geneva declaration foreseeing a ceasefire, forming a government with complete prerogatives and a plan for parliamentary and presidential elections," he said, referring to a peace initiative world powers agreed to in June.

That plan was rejected by Syria's opposition, which insists Assad must depart before any national dialogue can take place.

Russia and China have so far vetoed three UN Security Council draft resolutions seeking to force Assad's hand with the threat of sanctions.

Escalating violence

The violence in Syria, meanwhile, escalated with activists reporting finding of 30 tortured bodies in the northern Damascus suburb of Barzeh.

"Thirty bodies were found in the Barzeh district. They bore signs of torture and have so far not been identified," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on medics and activists on the ground in compiling its tolls.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a grassroots network of anti-regime activists, gave a higher estimate of 50 bodies, saying "their heads were cut and disfigured to the point that it was no longer possible to identify" them.

These reports could not be verified independently because of restrictions on international media.

The Observatory said at least 160 people were killed across Syria on Sunday, including 78 civilians.

Offensive unleashed

On Sunday, regime forces had unleashed a fierce offensive in the central city of Homs after overrunning a key neighbourhood a day earlier.

The Observatory said after seizing the Deir Baalbeh district in fighting which left dozens dead, regime forces fired off barrages of rockets into surrounding rebel-held neighbourhoods on Sunday.

Troops also bombarded the nearby opposition stronghold of Rastan.

A video released by the Syrian Revolution General Commission showed the bodies of nine male victims from Deir Baalbeh lying on the ground, their faces bloody and mutilated.

On Sunday, Moscow dispatched a third naval vessel to the eastern Mediterranean in readiness for a possible evacuation of Russian nationals, many of them women who married Syrian men during the Cold War years of close relations.

The Novocherkassk landing ship is expected to dock in Tartus in the first 10 days of the new year, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia has been accused of using the base to supply Assad's government with secret military shipments supplementing the official weapons sales that Moscow has made to Damascus since Soviet times.

Read more on:    bashar assad  |  russia  |  syria  |  uprisings  |  syria conflict
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