US, Russia and UN hold talks on ending bloodshed

Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 00:00

SYRIAN CONFLICT: The UN’s peace envoy to Syria travelled to Dublin yesterday for extraordinary three-way talks with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov aimed at accelerating diplomatic efforts to end the 21-month old conflict.

Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat who replaced Kofi Annan as the UN’s mediator for Syria earlier this year, met Mrs Clinton and Mr Lavrov yesterday evening to discuss how to work out a strategy to end the violence which has claimed an estimated 40,000 lives since the uprising began in spring last year.

“We have talked a little bit about how we can work out hopefully a process that will get Syria back from the brink,” Mr Brahimi told reporters after the 40-minute meeting.

The talks were hastily arranged on the sidelines of the annual conference of the OSCE.

Mr Brahimi said he wanted to put together a peace process based on a political transition plan agreed by countries including the US and Russia in Geneva in June. Such a process, he said, would include “all the countries . . . with interest or influence” in Syria.

“We haven’t taken any sensational decisions,” Mr Brahimi said of yesterday’s talks. “But I think we have agreed that the situation is bad and we have agreed that we must continue to work together to see how we can find creative ways of bringing this problem under control and hopefully starting to solve it.”

Wrangle

The US and Russia have wrangled bitterly over how to address the crisis engulfing Syria but Mrs Clinton insisted just before the three-way talks that Washington and Moscow shared a common objective.

Earlier yesterday, she and Mr Lavrov met separately for about 25 minutes. A senior US official said they had agreed to “hear Brahimi out”.

“We have been trying hard to work with Russia to try to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition for a post-Assad Syrian future,” Mrs Clinton said.

“Events on the ground in Syria are accelerating and we see that in many different ways . . . The pressure against the regime in and around Damascus seems to be increasing. We’ve made it very clear what our position is with respect to chemical weapons.”

Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, however, accused the US of exploiting the issue of chemical weapons to justify military intervention against Syria. He warned that any such intervention would be “catastrophic”.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was delighted Dublin could facilitate yesterday’s three-way talks.

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