UNITED NATIONS: The president of the U.N. Security Council said Thursday there are important developments in efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the 21-month war in Syria and there could be another U.S.-Russia meeting with international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi next week.
Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Masood Khan told a news conference that Brahimi is trying to pave the way for a diplomatic breakthrough and plans to follow up talks in Moscow last Saturday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with new three-way talks.
Brahimi and Lavrov both said after their meeting that the Syrian conflict can only be settled through talks, while admitting that the government and the opposition have shown no desire for compromise. Neither official hinted at a possible solution that would persuade the two sides to agree to a ceasefire and sit down for talks about a political transition.
Lavrov said Syrian President Bashar Assad has no intention of stepping down - a key opposition demand - and it would be impossible to try to persuade him otherwise.
Brahimi, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, warned that the country's civil war could plunge the entire region into chaos by sending hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring nations.
Khan, the Security Council president for January, said new efforts are under way on the diplomatic track.
"There are some developments- important developments, important consultations - taking place outside the council," Khan said. "I can't predict anything at this moment, but we're hoping that there would be a trilateral meeting sometime next week between Moscow, Washington and Mr. Brahimi."
Brahimi met Dec. 9 in Geneva with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to discuss the crisis in Syria.
They said in a joint statement that the situation in Syria was "bad and getting worse," adding that a political process to end the conflict was "still necessary and still possible."
Russia and the United States have argued bitterly over how to address the conflict, which began with peaceful protests against Assad in March 2011 and escalated into a civil war that the U.N. said Wednesday has killed 60,000 people. Russia and China have vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring the Assad government to end the violence.