Syrian peace envoy to negotiate truce in Damascus tomorrow

AFP, DAMASCUS

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 - Page 6

International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is trying to secure a truce in Syria for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, will arrive in Damascus tomorrow, the Syrian foreign ministry said.

“Brahimi will meet with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Saturday morning,” ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdisi said.

Brahimi called on Monday for a temporary ceasefire in Syria during the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday starting on Friday next week.

The veteran diplomat’s visit to Damascus will be his last stop on a tour of countries that play influential roles in the crisis.

Armed with a step-by-step approach to the conflict, Brahimi looks set to be welcomed favorably by the Syrian authorities.

Brahimi has focused his efforts on “convincing all parties to accept a temporary and limited objective as a first step towards a solution, and as a litmus test of all parties’ intentions,” al-Baath newspaper, Syria’s ruling party mouthpiece, said yesterday.

“The envoy is making a thorough and prudent effort to overcome the obstacles [in implementing] a diplomacy of small steps,” the newspaper added.

Asked whether al-Baath’s optimism was warranted, Maqdisi told reporters: “Let’s see what Brahimi has to say.”

Damascus has said it is prepared to discuss the proposal in talks with Brahimi. The exiled opposition said it would welcome any ceasefire, but insisted the ball is in the government’s court to halt its daily bombardments.

Meanwhile, there are doubts that even if a truce is agreed, it will be difficult to maintain.

“I don’t know whether they will all agree at the higher level or not on the ceasefire proposal, but on the ground you have pro and anti-regime forces that do not respond to any authority,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said.