Brahimi to hold talks on Syria in Moscow Saturday: official
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad (R), escorts the UN-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi (L) in Damascus, Syria, 23 October 2012. EPA photoSyria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will hold talks in Moscow on Saturday following consultations with President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told ITAR-TASS news agency on Wednesday.
The Russian foreign ministry had said earlier that Brahimi himself had requested the meeting as he pursues what so far have been fruitless efforts to negotiate an end to 21 months of violence that have claimed more than 45,000 lives.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was pushing Brahimi to ensure that the warring sides stick to a June peace plan that calls for a transition of power without making an explicit demand on Assad to step down.
Brahimi arrived in Damascus on Sunday and has also met with leaders of a regime-sanctioned opposition party that also makes periodic visits to Moscow.
But a UN Security Council diplomat said the veteran Algerian diplomat had received no support from any of the warring sides.
Russia has issued a series of statements in recent weeks distancing itself from the Damascus regime.
President Vladimir Putin said on two occasions last week that Moscow had no intention of propping up the Assad government.
The foreign ministry also confirmed that Moscow was drawing up preparations for an evacuation of Russian personnel in case of the armed opposition's rise to power.
Syria deputy FM Muqdad travels to Moscow: airport source
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal Muqdad took a midnight flight from Beirut to Moscow, an airport source told AFP Wednesday, amid reports of a US-Russian initiative for a transition in Syria.
"Accompanied by foreign ministry official Ahmed Arnus, Muqdad's Aeroflot flight to Moscow took off from Beirut airport at midnight" Tuesday, the airport source said, on condition of anonymity.
French daily Le Figaro has reported that the new initiative would see President Bashar al-Assad staying in power until 2014 while preventing him from further renewing his mandate.
Muqdad's visit to Moscow comes as UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi visits Syria in a bid to persuade the warring parties to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict, in which according to activists 45,000 people have died.
Brahimi met with Assad on Monday and a day later with three opposition groups tolerated by the regime.
He is scheduled to stay in Syria until Sunday although diplomats say he has so far made little headway in his latest mission.
On December 6, Brahimi met in Dublin with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss possible solutions to the Syrian crisis.
No details of the Dublin discussion have been released.