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Ahead of Russia peace talks, UN-Arab League envoy calls for transitional government in Syria

A delegation from Syria was in Moscow on Thursday, and UN envoys are expected there on Saturday.

Lakhdar Brahimi Syria 27 12 2012Enlarge
The UN's special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, attended talks in Moscow this week. (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian officials were in Moscow on Thursday for talks with the Russian government, two days before the UN peace envoy is due to arrive there.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad attended a meeting at Russia's Foreign Ministry, Reuters reported, where he was due to discuss a possible political settlement to his country's crisis.

Reports suggested that the talks would focus on a peace plan drawn up by the UN's special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Yet Moscow refused to disclose what was covered during the meeting, which according to Reuters lasted less than two hours.

Reuters reported that Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Makdad that the crisis in Syria must be resolved by dialogue. He apparently warned that time was running out for a peaceful settlement, emphasizing the urgent need to end the conflict.

"The Russian side underscored the lack of an alternative to a peaceful resolution of (Syria's) internal conflict through a broad inter-Syrian dialogue and political process," said a statement, though there was no mention of ways to achieve those goals.

Brahimi himself is due in Moscow on Saturday, the UN confirmed to RIA Novosti.

He has just spent the past five days in Syria, where he called for "genuine change" to satisfy the demands of Syrian protesters.

The country needs a transitional government with "all the powers of the state," Brahimi told reporters in Damascus on Thursday.

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That proposal echoes the UN's so-called Geneva plan, presented by former peace envoy Kofi Annan in June, which is understood to form the basis of current efforts to resolve the conflict.

According to the Associated Press, the Geneva plan called for a national unity government with full executive powers that would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and democratic elections.

It did not say that President Bashar al-Assad had to go, however, nor did it ban him or his allies from the interim government – which made it "a non-starter" with the Syrian opposition, the AP said.

It has been rumored that Russia and the US have reached agreement on an alternative peace plan, though according to Reuters, Moscow continues to insist that Assad's exit cannot be a precondition for negotiations.

Brahimi and the Russian government have each denied that such a plan exists.

The UN, Moscow and Washington are simply "trying to feel a way out of this situation" based on the Geneva agreement, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/121227/russia-hosts-syria-peace-talks