Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. and Arab League envoy on Syria, has arrived in Damascus to push for truce, the fate of which will depend not only on the government of President Bashar al-Assad but also on key regional players including Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
There was some hope that Mr. Brahimi may manage to bring about a pause in fighting as Iran seems to be actively backing his plan for truce during the coming Id-al-Adah religious holidays.
In Tehran, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Friday that Tehran saw “an immediate ceasefire in Syria as a significant step in helping [the restoration of] peace for the Syrian people”.
The support for a four-day ceasefire followed earlier remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying it would be the first step for negotiations and elections that will end the crisis. “In our view, ceasefire and dialogue for free elections is the right solution,” said Mr. Ahmadinejad during a press conference on the sidelines of the first summit of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) group in Kuwait City.
Iran’s push for a ceasefire — a step that will cement its position as an indispensable regional heavyweight — comes amid realisation in influential international quarters that the Syrian crisis cannot be resolved through the use of military force. While in Beirut as part of region-wide consultations, Mr. Brahimi made it clear that persistence with military force in Syria would be counterproductive. Many analysts saw in his statement an acknowledgment that forced “regime change” in Syria was not a viable option anymore.
Mr. Brahimi stressed that all influential countries must halt arms shipments to Syria in order to prevent the conflict from spreading in the region.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have emerged as the main supporters of Syria’s armed opposition. “Those countries need to realise…that it is not possible that this crisis will stay inside Syrian border forever,” observed Mr. Brahimi. “Either it has to be taken care of or it will spread and spill over and consume everything.”
Russia, which strongly opposes “regime change” in Syria, has reinforced its advocacy for international pressure to restrain the armed opposition. In a speech delivered at the NATO parliamentary assembly, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko stressed that all countries must use their influence to persuade the opposition to start a dialogue.
On Friday, Mr. Brahimi was received by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad at the Damascus international airport. The Algerian diplomat is expected to meet Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Saturday morning, but his talks with Mr. Assad during his four- day stay in Syria are yet to be scheduled.