U.N. and Arab League special envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Cairo early Sunday for talks, reported Al Arabiya’s correspondent, a day after he warned that the Syrian conflict is strongly becoming sectarian and this could plunge the whole region into chaos.
Brahimi warned Syria was facing a choice between “hell or the political process” after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on his end-of-year bid to accelerate moves to halt a conflict that monitors say has now killed more than 45,000 people.
The talks came amid emerging signs that Russia was beginning to distance itself from Assad’s government and urgent efforts by Brahimi to resurrect a failed peace initiative that world powers agreed to in Geneva in June.
Lavrov said both he and Brahimi agreed there was hope for a solution as long as world powers put pressure on both sides.
“The confrontation is escalating. But we agree the chance for a political solution remains,” he said.
Brahimi warned that Syria’s civil war could plunge the entire region into chaos by sending hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring nations, but his talks in Moscow produced no sign of progress toward settling the crisis.
On Friday, coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib rejected the Russian invitation for talks and urged Moscow to support the opposition’s call for Assad’s ouster.
Lavrov said Saturday that al-Khatib’s statement was surprising after his earlier contacts with Russian diplomats in Egypt during which the opposition tentatively agreed on a meeting in a third country.
Lavrov said the coalition leader should “realize it would be in his own interests to hear our analysis directly from us.”
Lavrov rejected the opposition claim that Russia’s continuing weapons supplies to Assad’s regime make it responsible for mass killings in Syria, saying that Moscow bears no responsibility for the Soviet-era weapons in Syrian arsenals. He said that defensive weapons such as anti-aircraft missiles that Russia has continued to supply to Damascus couldn’t be used in the civil war.
“We aren’t providing the Syrian regime with any offensive weapons or weapons that could be used in a civil war,” Lavrov said. “And we have no leverage over what the regime has got since the Soviet times.”