BEIRUT

Middle East

Brahimi takes up mission in Damascus

Meqdad welcomes Brahimi upon his arrival at a hotel in Damascus.

DAMASCUS: Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem pledged Thursday Syria’s “full cooperation” with the mission of peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

He cautioned, however, that success would depend on the stances of countries that he said were “arming, financing and training armed terrorist groups.”

The U.N.-Arab League envoy is expected to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad Friday and will also hold talks with the government and representatives of the Syrian opposition and civil society, according to a statement from his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi.

The state news agency SANA said that Moallem had met with Brahimi and had informed him that any initiative to end the conflict would be based on “the interests of the Syrian people and its independent decision, with no foreign intervention.”

Brahimi, upon his arrival in Damascus on his first official trip aimed at ending nearly 18 months of violence, warned that the deadly conflict in Syria was getting worse.

“We came to Syria to hold meetings with our Syrian brothers because there is a big crisis, and I think it is getting worse,” SANA quoted the envoy as saying at Damascus airport.

“I think everybody agrees the need to stop the bloodshed and to restore harmony, and we hope that we will succeed,” said Brahimi, who succeeded Kofi Annan after the envoy quit following the collapse of his peace plan.

Brahimi will meet Friday with members of opposition groups tolerated by the Syrian regime.

He was accompanied by Mokhtar Lamani, who will remain in Damascus to assume his new functions as head of office for the Joint Special Representative for Syria in the city, Fawzi said.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad said: “We trust that Brahimi has a general understanding of the developments and of the way to solve problems despite the complexities. We are optimistic and we wish Brahimi success.”

However, the veteran Algerian diplomat highlighted to Arab League envoys in Cairo this week that he knows he faces an uphill struggle, with no sign of a lull in the violence.

Brahimi told the envoys “he was approaching the crisis in Syria with his eyes open and the full knowledge that it was an extremely difficult task,” a U.N. spokeswoman said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 14, 2012, on page 8.

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