World Bulletin / News Desk
Russia and other big powers have told mediator Kofi Annan that they support his idea of a Syrian national unity cabinet that could include government and opposition members but would exclude those whose participation would undermine it, envoys said on Wednesday.
Annan's proposal for a political transition aimed at ending the 16-month conflict in Syria is one of the main topics that Russia, the other four permanent Security Council members and key players in the Middle East will discuss at a meeting in Geneva on Saturday, diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
One diplomat summarized Annan's proposal, saying the Syria conflict can only end when all sides see a peaceful way to a shared future." Annan made clear it was "vital that (any) settlement (be) irreversible, (with) clear transition steps in fixed timeline," he said.
"These include establishing a transitional national unity government to create a neutral backdrop for transition," the diplomat said in his summary of Annan's plan.
"It could comprise present government members, opposition and others, but would need to exclude those whose continued participation or presence would jeopardize the transition's credibility, or harm prospects for reconciliation and stability."
The diplomat added that the idea of excluding certain people was clearly referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though Annan's proposal does not explicitly say Assad could not serve in a national unity government. That gives Russia the option of insisting that Assad be allowed to stay in power.
"The Russians signaled to Annan that they accept his transition plan," he said. Several Western diplomats confirmed his remarks, adding that all five permanent veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members backed it.
Another diplomat said Russia's acceptance of Annan's proposal, which he circulated to the five permanent Security Council members this week, did not mean it has abandoned Assad.
"I'm very skeptical," he said. "I don't see the Russians giving up on Assad."
The Russian mission at the United Nations was not available for comment.
Shift in Russia's stance?
Annan made acceptance of his guidelines for a political transition for Syria a condition for organizing Saturday's meeting, which will include Turkey, the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. It will not include Iran or Saudi Arabia.
Russia has repeatedly said its supports Annan's idea of creating a "contact group" of powerful nations and regional players with influence on the Syrian government or the opposition to push for an end to the violence in Syria.
Several diplomats said Russia's acceptance of Annan's proposal appeared to signal a shift in its stance on Syria. But it was not immediately clear if Moscow's support for the idea of a national unity government in principle meant that it was now abandoning Assad, a staunch ally and key Russian arms purchaser.
Saturday's meeting, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend, will have to agree on the details of the political transition and the mechanisms for implementing it, diplomats said.
Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, also wants Saturday's meeting to revive his moribund six-point peace plan that has failed to end the fighting between Assad's forces and an increasingly militarized opposition. The conflict has escalated in recent weeks.
Annan said the aim of the one-day talks was to identify measures to secure full implementation of his stalled peace plan and Security Council resolutions, including an immediate halt to all violence.
Turkey has quality human resources, outstanding capabilities, high-class products, says Kuwaiti minister
Activist is vocal opponent of controversial border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia
Ship dispatched by Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) carries 10,000 tons of supplies to blockaded enclave
U.S. Statement Department questioned motives of Gulf allies for their blockade on Qatar
Signaling Washington's mounting frustration at Riyadh's role in the crisis, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called into question whether Qatar's alleged support for terrorism is its true cause.
Arrests come two weeks after terrorist group claims responsibility for deadly twin attacks in Tehran
Transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi sovereignty would make Riyadh party to 1979 Egypt-Israel peace agreement, MP says
Javad Zarif is slated to meet Mauritanian president, foreign minister to discuss bilateral ties, regional developments
Three small boats entered Saudi territorial waters at about 8:30 pm on Friday and "headed at speed towards platforms of (the) Saudi oil field of Marjan", a government statement said.
The soldiers, part of the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) which is headquartered in Bahrain, had been asked to leave the coalition and may depart within the next 48 hours, the source told AFP.
Syrian jet dropped bombs near U.S. partners forces, anti-ISIL coalition says
Strikes come after last week's deadly attacks in Tehran were claimed by terror network
Most of the casualties worked in the Mashnaq market in the rebel-controlled Saada province on the Saudi border, an official at a nearby hospital told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Sunday's verdicts are binding and cannot be appealed
"A bomb buried by the side of the road exploded" as the vehicle drove by in the early hours of the morning, the ministry said in a statement.