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Terrorism & Security

UN envoy tries to revive Syria peace plan

The plan from UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is unlikely to gain traction without more concessions to the Syrian opposition.

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Reuters reports that Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich stated plainly that Mr. Assad's departure could not be treated as a precondition for talks this time around, but did not insist that the possibility of his removal be off the table.

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Middle East Editor

Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog. 

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"The biggest disagreement ... is that one side thinks Assad should leave at the start of the process – that is the US position, and the other thinks his departure should be a result of the process – that would be the Russian position," Dmitry Trenin, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, told Reuters.

But Trenin said battlefield gains made by the Syrian rebels were narrowing the gap between Moscow and Washington.

Mr. Lukashevich said, contrary to speculation, there is not yet a concrete plan for resolving the Syrian conflict. "In our talks with Mr. Brahimi and with our American colleagues, we are trying to feel a way out of this situation on the basis of our common plan of action that was agreed in Geneva in June," he said, according to Reuters.

Officials have been vague about what is on the table as a series of high-level officials meet. Brahimi arrived in Damascus on Dec. 24 and Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad was in Moscow today, possibly meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia's envoy for Middle East affairs, Reuters reports.

CNN says that the Geneva plan was able to find some common ground between Russia and China on one side and France, Britain, the US, and Turkey on the other. That was, however, partially due to the fact that it didn’t address question of Assad's role in a transitional government.

According to the communique, the transitional government "could include members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent."

Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of political risk analysis firm Cornerstone Global Associates, told Bloomberg that it is unlikely we will see a public "abandonment" of Assad because of Russia's naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus and billions of dollars worth of arms contracts with Damascus. 


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