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Russia, U.S. to seek ‘creative’ Syria solution – envoy

By Reuters 7 December 2012

Russia and the United States will seek a "creative" solution to drag Syria back from the brink, the international mediator on Syria said on Thursday after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. By David Brunnstrom and Conor Humphries.

The comments by Lakhdar Brahimi, who called the unscheduled meeting on the sidelines of a Dublin conference, suggested a new coordination among the major powers might be emerging on Syria after months of sometimes bitter disagreement.

After the talks, which lasted about 40 minutes, Brahimi said he would seek peace based on the Geneva Declaration which calls for a transitional administration.

“We haven’t taken any sensational decisions,” Brahimi told reporters after the meeting at a gathering of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He called Syria’s situation “very, very, very bad”.

“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.

“We have also talked a little bit about how we can work out hopefully a process that will get Syria back from the brink. To put together a peace process that will be based on Geneva.”

Clinton held a bilateral meeting with Lavrov and Brahimi met separately with Lavrov before the three sat down together.

Clinton told a news conference the U.S. had been trying hard to work with Russia to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition towards a post-Assad Syrian future.

In Moscow, a senior Russian lawmaker and ally of Vladimir Putin described Syria’s government on Thursday as being incapable of doing its job properly, in a sign Russia is trying to distance itself from President Bashar al-Assad.

That followed comments by Putin in Turkey on Monday that “new, fresh ideas” about how to end the crisis had emerged. The Kremlin said they would be discussed further by Russian and Turkish diplomats.

Assad’s deputy foreign minister said meanwhile Western powers were whipping up fears of a fateful move to the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war as a “pretext for intervention”.

RUSSIAN AND CHINESE OPPOSITION

The Dublin talks come ahead of a meeting of the Western-backed “Friends of Syria” group in Marrakech next week which is expected to boost support for anti-Assad forces.

The rebels have made advances across Syria in recent weeks and fighting raged on Wednesday in an arc of suburbs on the eastern outskirts of Damascus.

Assad’s family has ruled for 42 years and the president has vowed to fight to the death in a conflict that has killed an estimated 38,000 people and risks sucking in other countries.

Opposition sources said on Wednesday rebels, riven by deep divisions and rivalries, were trying to restructure their leadership across Syria in an effort to secure foreign funding for their armed revolt.

Brahimi has called for world powers to issue a U.N. Security Council resolution based on a June deal they reached to set up a transitional government.

The Geneva Declaration, agreed when Kofi Annan was international mediator, called for a transitional administration but did not specify what role, if any, Assad would have.

The United States and its allies want Assad to step down. Russia has repeatedly said his fate cannot be decided outside Syria, but also appears to be trying to position itself for his potential exit.

Western countries proposed a new resolution at the U.N. Security Council in July aimed at putting direct pressure on Assad by threatening more sanctions unless his troops stopped using heavy weapons and withdrew troops from towns and cities.

Russia and China vetoed the resolution, saying it represented interference in Syria’s internal affairs.

Annan stepped down in August, saying divisions in the Security Council made his plan unworkable.

The United States and its allies said the plan failed because of Assad’s refusal to abide by its provisions and Russia and China’s refusal to hold Assad accountable.

The United States said it would focus its efforts on rallying support outside the U.N. system for more help for Syria’s opposition. DM

Photo: A Syrian refugee girl stands with her mother outside their friend’s house at the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

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