Syria’s 19-month conflict has the capacity to set the entire region ablaze, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has told journalists during a trip to Lebanon.
“This crisis cannot remain confined within Syrian territory,” the joint UN-Arab League envoy said on Wednesday.
“Either it is solved, or it gets worse… and sets [the region] ablaze. A truce for Eid al-Adha would be a microscopic step on the road to solving the Syria crisis,” he added, referring to the Muslim four-day holiday starting on October 26.
Brahimi admitted that solving the Syrian crisis was a “very, very difficult” process, but there was a “microscopic” chance that a truce may lead to a permanent ceasefire.
“The Syrian people, on both sides, are burying some 100 people a day,” he said after talks with Lebanese officials in Beirut.
“Can we not ask that this toll falls for this holiday? This will not be a happy holiday for the Syrians, but we should at least strive to make it less sad.
“This will be a microscopic chance to lead to a permanent ceasefire, halting the smuggling of arms, and an agreement on a political solution.”
Brahimi said he was visiting Syria’s neighbours to listen to their views on the crisis, adding he would also visit Damascus, but not specifying a date.
Arab League support
Arab League chief Nabil El-Arabi, who met Brahimi on Tuesday, backed the truce proposal and asked for international support. Turkey also voiced its support.
“In principle, we consider a ceasefire … to be declared during the Eid al-Adha as useful,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview with A Haber television.
Iran also backs the idea of a ceasefire, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, according to Iran’s state news agency.
But in Damascus, the state-run Al-Thawra newspaper said Brahimi’s initiative was likely to fail because the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had no unified leadership to agree to it.
“There is the state, represented by the government and the army on one front, but who is on the other front?” the paper asked in an editorial.
All international efforts to end Syria’s civil war to date have failed. Both rebels and government forces have disregarded previous ceasefires, and the scores of rebel units have no single leader, with many not communicating with each other.
Jihad Makdessi, Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement to Al-Thawra that the government was waiting for Brahimi to come to Damascus to convey to officials there the results of his Middle East tour, including visits to Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.
Makdessi said his government would welcome any “constructive initiative”, but affirmed that any step, regardless of its type, required commitment by all sides in order for it to succeed.
The Syrian uprising has claimed about 30,000 lives since March last year, according to the opposition.
More than a million people have been displaced inside the country and hundreds of thousands more have fled to neighbouring countries.
Fighting continued on Wednesday, with activists reporting clashes in the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo as well as outside Damascus.
Amateur videos posted online showed what activists said was a helicopter shot down by rebel fire near the northern town of Maaret al-Numan. Clashes have been raging in the area since rebels took the town last week.
An activist in the area, who gave his name as Qais al-Idlibi, said the regime has been bombing villages in the area for more than a week and had destroyed many homes.
He said the remaining civilians sleep outside in their fields for fear of airstrikes.