Sun, Jan 13, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Russia calls for political transition process in Syria

AFP, MOSCOW and Beirut

Russia yesterday called for the launch of a political transition process in Syria, a day after peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met with diplomats from Moscow and Washington in a bid to resolve the nearly two-year-old conflict.

However, Moscow also reiterated its long-held position that only Syrians themselves could decide their fate without outside interference.

“In our opinion, the priority task is to immediately stop any violence and bloodshed, as well as provide Syrians, including internally displaced persons and refugees, with humanitarian aid,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

UN-Arab League special envoy Brahimi on Friday met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns in Geneva.

The discussions took place a day after Syria accused Brahimi of “flagrant bias,” casting doubt on whether he could stay on as international mediator.

In the statement, Moscow stressed its “unchanged” support for Brahimi’s peace mission, adding that it would support further trilateral talks.

Meanwhile, the outskirts of the Syrian capital were rocked by clashes early yesterday, a day after rebels seized a key regime airbase in the north, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog said two children and two men were killed when Mleha just southeast of Damascus was bombarded, and that two rebels battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were also killed there.

Yesterday’s violence came a day after at least 86 people were killed across Syria, the Observatory said. It gave a a preliminary toll of at least 22 people killed nationwide yesterday.

Among Friday’s casualties were nine rebels, eight soldiers and two regime militiamen killed when insurgents overran the key Taftanaz air base in northwestern Syria, in one of their most important military gains to date.

Capturing Taftanaz, from which regime forces launched deadly helicopter gunship sorties, eases the pressure on rebels who already control vast swathes of Syria’s north and east.

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