No end to Syria war if sides refuse to talk: envoy

Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:56am EST
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By Yara Bayoumy and Maria Golovnina

AZAZ, Syria/CAIRO (Reuters) - The international peace negotiator for Syria pleaded with outside countries on Sunday to push the warring parties to the table for talks, warning that the country would become a failed state ruled by warlords unless diplomacy is given a chance.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who inherited the seemingly impossible task of bringing an end to the war after his predecessor Kofi Annan resigned in frustration in July, has launched an intensified diplomatic campaign to win backing for a peace plan.

He spent five days this week in Damascus, where he met President Bashar al-Assad. On Saturday he visited Assad's main international backers in Moscow, and on Sunday he travelled to Cairo, where President Mohamed Mursi has emerged as one of Assad's most vocal Arab opponents.

"The problem is that both sides aren't speaking to one another," he said. "This is where help is needed from outside."

Brahimi's peace plan - inherited from Annan and agreed to in principle in Geneva in June by countries that both oppose and support Assad - has the seemingly fatal flaw of making no mention of whether Assad would leave power.

The Syrian leader's opponents - who have seized much of the north and east of the country in the past six months - say they will not cease fire or join any talks unless Assad goes and have largely dismissed Brahimi's initiative.

But Brahimi says the plan is the only one on the table, and predicts "hell" if countries do not push both sides to talk.

"The situation in Syria is bad, very, very bad, and it is getting worse, and the pace of deterioration is increasing," Brahimi told reporters.   Continued...

International peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi attends a meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby (unseen) at the Arab League's headquarters in Cairo December 30, 2012. The international mediator touting a peace plan for Syria warned on Saturday of "hell" if the warring sides shun talks, and Moscow accused enemies of President Bashar al-Assad of blocking negotiations. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh