Russia, U.S. to seek creative Syria solution

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Russia and the United States will seek a creative solution to drag Syria back from the brink, the international mediator on Syria said Thursday after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The comments by Lakhdar Brahimi, who called the unscheduled meeting on the sidelines of a Dublin conference, suggested a new coordination among the major powers might be emerging on Syria after months of sometimes bitter disagreement.

After the talks, which lasted about 40 minutes, Brahimi said he would seek peace based on the Geneva Declaration which calls for a transitional administration.

“We haven’t taken any sensational decisions,” Brahimi told reporters after the meeting at a gathering of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He called Syria’s situation “very, very, very bad.”

“We have agreed that we must continue to work together to see how we can find creative ways of bringing this problem under control and hopefully starting to solve it.

“We have also talked a little bit about how we can work out hopefully a process that will get Syria back from the brink. To put together a peace process that will be based on Geneva.”

“We haven’t taken any sensational decisions,” Brahimi said. “But I think we have agreed that the situation is bad and we have agreed that we must continue to work together to see how we can find creative ways of bringing this problem under control and hopefully starting to solve it.”

Clinton held a bilateral meeting with Lavrov and Brahimi met separately with Lavrov before the three sat down together.

Clinton told a news conference the U.S. had been trying hard to work with Russia to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition toward a Syrian future without President Bashar Assad.

In Washington, U.S. Senator John McCain, who has long advocated that the U.S. do more to help the rebels, told reporters he and three other senators were deeply disturbed by reports that Assad may have weaponized his stores of chemical and biological agents.

They also called on Russia, an ally of Assad, to become more active in trying to resolve the crisis.

In Moscow, a senior Russian lawmaker and ally of Vladimir Putin described Syria’s government Thursday as being incapable of doing its job properly, in a sign Russia is trying to distance itself from Assad.

That followed comments by Putin in Turkey Monday that “new, fresh ideas” about how to end the crisis had emerged.

Assad’s deputy foreign minister said meanwhile Western powers were whipping up fears of a move to the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war as a “pretext for intervention.”

He also labeled as “psychological warfare” a move by NATO to station Patriot missiles and troops along Syria’s border with Turkey to protect against potential attacks, saying the deployment would not deter it from seeking victory over rebels it views as terrorists.

The Dublin talks came ahead of a meeting of the Western-backed “Friends of Syria” group in Marrakech next week which is expected to boost support for anti-Assad forces.

The rebels have made advances across Syria in recent weeks and fighting raged Wednesday in suburbs on the eastern outskirts of Damascus.

Assad’s forces shelled Douma and Zabadani to the northeast of the capital and Daraya and Moadamiyet al-Sham to the southwest, official and activist sources said.

The army escalated its assault on rebel-held Daraya Wednesday and additional troops were deployed to the town.

State news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military source, said: “Daraya will be completely cleansed of terrorists soon.”

Security forces swarmed the southern district of Zahra in Damascus after a car bomb exploded in front of a Red Crescent center, causing one death, state television said.

In all, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the violence had killed at least 57 people nationwide Thursday.

Assad has vowed to fight to the death in a conflict that has killed an estimated 40,000 people and risks sucking in other countries.

Opposition sources Wednesday said rebels, riven by deep divisions and rivalries, were trying to restructure their leadership in an effort to secure foreign funding for their armed revolt.

Brahimi has called for world powers to issue a U.N. Security Council resolution based on a June deal they reached to set up a transitional government.

The Geneva Declaration, agreed when Kofi Annan was international mediator, called for a transitional administration but did not specify what role, if any, Assad would have.

Western countries proposed a new resolution at the U.N. Security Council in July aimed at putting direct pressure on Assad by threatening more sanctions unless his troops stopped using heavy weapons and withdrew troops from towns and cities.

Russia and China vetoed the resolution, saying it represented interference in Syria’s internal affairs.

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