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Syria: UN envoy calls on government to start truce

Lakhdar Brahimi said that rebel representatives told him they will also observe the truce if the government takes the first step.

Image: Bilal Hussein/AP/Press Association Images

THE INTERNATIONAL ENVOY to the Syrian conflict called on President Bashar Assad’s regime to take the lead in implementing a cease-fire during a major Muslim holiday later this month.

Lakhdar Brahimi said rebel representatives have assured him they will also observe the truce if the government takes the first step.

The Syrian people are burying hundreds of people each day, so if they bury fewer people during the days of the holiday, this could be the start of Syria’s return from the dangerous situation that it … is continuing to slip toward.

Brahimi’s push to get Assad and rebels seeking to topple him to stop fighting for the four-day Eid al-Adha feast set to begin October 26 reflects how little progress international diplomacy has made in halting 19 months of deadly violence in Syria. Activists say more than 33,000 people have been killed.

‘Microscopic’ step

Unlike his predecessor as joint UN-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, Brahimi has said he has no grand plan to end Syria’s civil war. Instead, he presented the truce as a “microscopic” step that would alleviate Syrian sorrow temporarily and provide the basis for a longer truce.

Brahimi spoke following meetings with top Lebanese officials as part of a regional tour. He said all countries must work to stop the bloodshed by halting arms shipments so the conflict doesn’t spread.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are sympathetic to the rebels and are believed to be facilitating their acquisition of weapons or arming them directly. Iran and Russia are Assad’s biggest supporters and provide the Syrian military with most of its advanced weaponry.

“These countries need to realize, as we heard today in Lebanon, that it is not possible that this crisis will stay inside Syrian border forever,” Brahimi said. “Either it has to be taken care of or it will spread and spill over and consume everything.”

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the government was waiting for Brahimi to come to Damascus to brief officials there on the results of his tour.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutolgu said his country supports a holiday cease-fire but was skeptical that it would lead to a longer truce without an international force to make it “sustainable.”

Turkey

Once a close ally of Damascus, Turkey has become one of Assad’s staunchest opponents. The two neighbors have traded artillery fire over their border since October 3 when a Syrian shell struck a Turkish border town, killing five civilians and sharply escalating tensions.

Turkey’s military again returned fire on Wednesday at Syria after a mortar round landed three metres  inside its Turkish territory. There were no casualties in the exchange, according to the governor’s office for the border province of Hatay.

Inside Syria, activists reported clashes in the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo as well as outside of the capital, Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the helicopter downing, saying the debris fell in the village of Baseeda. The activists’ claims and videos could not be independently verified.

On Wednesday, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said more than half of Syria’s health facilities have been destroyed or damaged in the war and many children are not getting vaccinated or going to school.

The BBC reports today that human rights groups say there are 28,000 disappeared in Syria, who were abducted by soldiers or militia.

Read: Turkey, Syria ban flights to each other as tensions soar>

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Associated Press

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