U.S. and Russia still back Syria settlement: UN envoy

BEIRUT Sun Dec 9, 2012 3:30pm EST

1 of 6. Demonstrators hold a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Binish, near Idlib, December 7, 2012. The banner reads: 'No to peacekeepers in Syria'.

Credit: Reuters/Hamzeh Al-Binishi/Shaam News Network/Handout

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.S. and Russian officials have given their commitment to a political solution for the deepening Syrian conflict, a United Nations envoy said on Sunday, but Moscow dismissed speculation it was preparing for President Bashar al-Assad's exit.

With rebels now fighting on the doorsteps of Damascus, Assad's forces kept up their now daily artillery strikes and air raids on eastern suburbs as well as some rebel-held districts on the capital's outskirts.

U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met the U.S. and Russian deputy foreign ministers in Geneva for the second session of tripartite talks in less than a week, apparently in response to rising violence that now threatens to engulf Damascus.

"All three parties reaffirmed their common assessment that the situation in Syria was bad and getting worse," a statement from Brahimi said. "They stressed that a political process to end the crisis in Syria was necessary and still possible."

Notwithstanding his comments, commitment to a political process could be at risk. Western officials were among those who helped rebels to create a unified chain of command at the weekend, and Washington is expected to recognize the opposition as the sole representative of the Syrian people next week.

Russia, Syria's main arms supplier, insisted its position on Assad had not softened and it was not negotiating on the future of the president, whose family has ruled Syria for 42 years.

"We are not holding any talks on the fate of Assad," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency in Moscow. "All attempts to present the situation rather differently are shady."

Several countries are believed to be supplying both sides in the conflict, with Iran bankrolling Assad's war efforts while its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar arm the rebels.

Brahimi said the talks aimed to find a solution based on last June's Geneva Declaration, which called for a transitional government. This proposal originally foundered over different interpretations of that transition; Washington said Assad could not play a role but Russia insisted that his fate should not be decided outside Syria.

Syria's 20-month-old uprising, which began as peaceful protests but has descended into civil war, has become increasingly bloody with over 40,000 people killed.


The rebels have gained momentum in recent weeks, capturing a series of military sites across the country often with the help of radical Islamists. However, some activists believe the opposition is still far from toppling Assad, whose army has largely held together and who has many heavy weapons.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported army shelling and clashes across the country on Sunday, with 60 counted dead before evening. Death tolls have averaged at around 100 per day in recent weeks.

In the north, the radical Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra, linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq, led other rebels in seizing on Sunday a regimental command center in Aleppo province, which borders Turkey.

The British-based Observatory, which has a network of activists across the country, said the centre's commander fled along with 140 soldiers. Five troops soldiers were captured.

Western powers have become increasingly alarmed by the role of groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which Washington is considering putting on its terrorist list.

Radical groups have gained increasing popularity and influence despite their small numbers. The seasoned fighters they attract from Syria and abroad have increased the effectiveness of their attacks.

Some rebels and residents feel the militants are more disciplined than other rebels, drawing fewer charges of looting and kidnapping.


Damascus has become a focal point of battles over the past week, as rebels effectively shut the international airport by clashing with Assad's forces near there. Foreign flights have been suspended and residents say the airport road is closed.

Rebels who have called their campaign "Operation Opening the Road to Damascus", uploaded video on Sunday that showed heavy gunbattles and explosions rocking several rural towns around the capital. The video also showed rebels firing a fully functioning tank which they had captured from the army.

But there is no clear winner yet in a battle where neither side seems to have advanced. The Syrian army has claimed many successes around the capital, airing footage on state television of soldiers raiding parts of the rebel stronghold of Deraya.

"Our noble forces in Deraya have destroyed some of the terrorist dens used by al Qaeda terrorists to store weapons and other criminal tools," said a report on Syria TV, which usually refers to rebels as terrorists. "Many terrorists were killed."

Still, rebel gains have helped drive a surge of diplomatic efforts among Gulf Arab states and the West to support the opposition and its newly-formed umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition.

The move may be encouraging defections. Nine judges defected in a YouTube video published on Sunday. Such videos, however, are difficult to verify as the Syrian government has restricted media access in the country.

(additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Nastassia Astrasheuskaya in Moscow,; editing by David Stamp)

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Comments (8)

1) All Reuters information about Syria comes from Islamist militants.

2) Reuters has not reported a single civillian death in over 20 months of fighting as having been caused by it’s so called ‘rebels’.

3) Reuters in this very article admits that all the major posts were given to “Islamists”, though continues to call the hardcore Islamist fighters “rebels”.

4) The ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ is not a registered or official organization of an kind. It is an Islamist militant website, and all information it publishes is created by Islamist militant fighters.

5) Reuters repeatedly states that “events on the ground are impossible to verify” but does not report its stories in this context.
Reuters cuts and pastes its stories from Islamist websites like the ‘observatory’ and presents them as legitimate sources, then occasionally provides this quick disclaimer buried further down its articles.

6) Reuters is the only news agency in the world that has created its own terminology to describe the Syrian arme forces, they call them “forces loyal to Assad”. No one else in the media world, who does not buy their stories from reuters, describes the Syrian Forces this way.

7) Reuters constantly ignores follow up stories where it is proven that old stories were false, or the facts have changed in favor of the Syrian government. The most notable case was the Houla massacre. As soon as it was discovered that all the victims were Allawite and the massacre carried out by reuters ‘rebels’ reporting on Houla was cancelled.

8) Reuters refuses to write stories on the character of their ‘rebels’, because reuters fears that by exposing how fanatical and Islamist in nature these ‘rebels’ are they will undermine US imperial interests.

9) Reuters refuses to condemn the many attacks on journalists by the Islamist militants.

10) Reuters refuses to provide links to Islamist militant videos it quotes from, because they are worried that the audience will identify with the ‘rebels’ as Islamist militants or even terrorists if they actually watched them.

11) Reuters routinely refuses to publish well known technical information on critical issues and other critical information on certain events, even when they have become common knowledge. eg.

- When Turkey was hit by several mortars reuters did not mention that the mortar was one of the key weapons used by Islamist militants in that area.

- Patriot missiles can not destroy incoming mortars.

- Several of the military bases reportedly captured by the Islamists in the last few weeks were either; Not the types of bases described, not in the right location, or; reported captured many months before the story was written.

- Reuters continually reports that the Islamist militants have only light weapons up to more than a year after it was clear the Islamists had in their posession:

– Tanks

– Armoured vehicles

– Artillary

– Anti-Tank weapons

– Anti-Aircraft cannons

– Anti-Aircraft rockets

– Anti-personell rockets (car and shoulder mounted)

– The widespread use of massive car bombs

– A wide array of Heavy calibre machine guns

Reuters are simply a propaganda network supporting the foreign backed coup, nothing more.

Dec 09, 2012 8:49am EST  --  Report as abuse
wacha gonna do mr. president, mrs. clinton, when it’s all over, and al-queida rules syria? uh? whacha gonna do?

Dec 09, 2012 8:59am EST  --  Report as abuse
Slammy wrote:

Same post as yesterday huh? In those list of weapons you post, how many were made in the USA? I think none. Please complain to Russia, China and the Syrian Regime for allowing the insurgents to obtain these weapons in the first place.
Also in the news, a large sector of Sheikh Suleiman base was captured. Yeah, that’s right, these armed gangs captured another military base containing the best weapons the regime has. A standing national army should not be having this much trouble defending its home turf from a few armed gangs, even if they have the weapons you claim. The Syrian army is just pathetic, huh?

Dec 09, 2012 10:29am EST  --  Report as abuse
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