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.
UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland says reaching aid for Syrians it is impossible and a critical situation in some areas.
Egypt's lead investigator said signals coming from the aircraft's fuselage will narrow down the search radius from 40 miles to three
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered his second cabinet resignation in a week on Friday when a minister quit over the appointment of a hardline nationalist in the "extremist government".
Iranian man last of 4 refugees detained by Australia who volunteered to move to Cambodia last year
US ground troops are aiding the coalition against ISIL in Raqqa
Iranian official accuses Saudi Arabia of planning large-scale cyber attack against his country
Pentagon comment follows photos surfaced of U.S. special forces wearing Kurdish YPG patches in Syria
The Saudi foreign minister has said that the removal of President Bashar al-Assad as part of a political transition in the violence-torn country.
The US State department has said that it is only " playing an advise and assist role,"
A monitor's, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, new toll reports on horrific casualties of fighting in Syria
Islamic Constitutional Movement has boycotted two general polls in 2012 and 2013 in protest against a change in electoral law
The UN's Syria envoy says there 'are plenty of civilians at the moment in danger of starvation'
Israeli military planes have hit at a number of sites in Gaza following a rocket attack
Over past ten days, 71 people have been killed in attacks carried out by Assad regime in Syria’s NW Latakia province
Civilians flee ISIL-held city of Raqqa amid fears of imminent attack by PYD terrorist group supported by US air power
Human Rights Watch says Egypt courts have sentenced more than 150 people to prison since May for staging peaceful protests