Russia to host envoy in search for solution

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The international envoy on Syria will visit Moscow this weekend for talks on the crisis, a senior Russian diplomat said last night.

Deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will arrive in Moscow for the one-day visit on Saturday.

Mr Brahimi met Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Monday, but did not signal that there had been any progress toward a negotiated solution for the 
civil war.

The deputy foreign minister told reporters after the talks that he and Mr Assad had exchanged views on the crisis and discussed possible steps forward, which he did not disclose.

Russia has used its veto alongside China at the United Nations Security Council to protect its old ally from international sanctions over a civil war that has killed more than 40,000 people, but it has increasingly sought to distance itself from Mr Assad.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that Moscow would welcome any country’s offer of a haven to Mr Assad, but it has no intention of giving him shelter if he steps down.

At the same time, Moscow has given no indication that it could end its firm opposition to international sanctions against Mr Assad and calls for him to step down.

Mr Lavrov reaffirmed Russia’s call for the fulfilment of a peace plan brokered by Mr Brahimi’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, that was approved at an international conference in Geneva.

On Russia’s insistence, the plan left the door open 
for Mr Assad to be part of 
the transition process and 
has been rejected by the opposition.