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UN envoy due in Russia for talks on Syria crisis

UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due to fly to Russia’s capital Moscow on Saturday to hold talks with the country’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on how to end the crisis in Syria, which a watchdog says has now claimed 45,000 lives.


Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, is due to fly to Moscow Saturday to hold talks with Russian Foregin Minister Sergei Lavrov on how to end Syria’s 21-month-old conflict, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.

Syria's opposition National Coalition said Thursday it would agree to any solution for a political transition as long as it excludes President Bashar al-Assad and his family.

"We will accept any political solution that does not include the Assad family nor those who harmed the Syrian people," Coalition spokesman Walid al-Bunni told a press conference in Istanbul.

His comments came after international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called for "real change" in Syria and the installation of a transitional government until elections can be held.


News of Brahimi’s plans came shortly after a delegation of Syrian diplomats arrived in the Russian capital to discuss proposals for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Earlier in the week, Brahimi visited the Syrian capital of Damascus to press President Bashar al-Assad’s government on the issue.

Brahimi has turned increasingly toward Russia in recent weeks to help mediate the crisis in Syria. An ally of Assad’s regime, Russia has traditionally opposed international calls for the president to quit power.

“We plan to discuss a range of issues linked to a political and diplomatic settlement in Syria, including Brahimi’s efforts aimed at ending the violence and the launch of a comprehensive national dialogue,” said Alexander Lukashevich, a spokersperson for Russia's Foreign Ministry.

However, Lukashevich played down the idea that a specific plan was on the table in Moscow talks, at least none agreed by Moscow and Washington.

While Moscow has sought to distance itself from Assad in recent months, the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry reiterated Moscow's stance that Assad's exit from power could not be a precondition for talks.

Death toll rises

Meanwhile, the death toll from Syria’s nearly two-year long conflict has surged to 45,000, according to British-based watchdog, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR].

The grim statistics added gravity to a UN warning that the humanitarian situation in the country is rapidly deteriorating, as well as predictions that the number of Syrian refugees could double to 1.1 million by next June if the violence doesn’t stop.

"In all we have documented the deaths of 45,048 people," SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman told the AFP news agency, adding that more than 1,000 people had been killed in the past week alone.

SOHR, which relies on a network of medics and activists on the ground, said the real number of those killed since the uprising against Assad first erupted in March 2011 could run as high as 100,000, with both sides concealing many of their casualties.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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