French president backs transition government for Syria and calls Iran’s nuclear ambitions a “threat” to the region.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, has called for world powers to issue a UN security council resolution based on a deal reached in June, in a bid to set up a transitional government and end the bloodshed in that country.
Brahimi’s initiative came after talks with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, hundreds of Syrian opposition leaders began a four-day conference in the Qatari capital Doha, with the aim of reorganising their ranks and creating a unified political and military anti-government front.
Speaking after the meeting in Cairo, Lavrov dismissed Brahimi’s initiative, saying that there was no need for a resolution. He added that the violence in Syria’s 19-month long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad was being stoked by foreign powers.
Brahimi wants a UN Security Council to formalise an earlier declaration adopted in Geneva, which called for a transitional administration but did not specify what role, if any, Assad would play in it.
“It is important that the Geneva Declaration be turned into a resolution from the security council to gain the power to enable it to become an applicable political project,” Brahimi said after a meeting between him, Lavrov and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.
Lavrov said both sides should be forced to sit down to negotiations, saying Moscow backed the Geneva Declaration.
“Unfortunately, some countries which participated in Geneva don’t speak with the government but only with the opposition and encourage them to fight till victory and this has very negative implications,” he said.
In Doha, the opposition began a four-day conference on Sunday that would focus on, among other things, a US-backed initiative to create a new leadership structure, with fewer Syrian exiles and more military commanders, for it.
Riad Seif, a leading Syrian dissident, denied on Sunday that he planned to head a government in exile. Seif, a long-time government opponent, was reportedly touted as the potential leader of a new government dubbed the Syrian National Initiative.
Hundreds of figures from the Syrian opposition are taking part in the conference, all seeking a way to topple Assad and end the 19-month conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
There are, however, some notable absentees, including the National Co-ordination Body, a rival to the Syrian National Council (SNC), and the National Democratic Front.
Damascus fighting rages
In Syria, meanwhile, the fighting continued on Sunday, with an explosion rocking one of Damascus’ government quarters, and shelling reported at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the capital.
The Syrian army shelled rebel positions inside the camp, which is located on the edge of Damascus, killing at least 20 people, opposition campaigners said.
“Yarmouk is a dense area and shelling it always results in a human catastrophe. We have 20 people killed, including medics who had to tried to help injured people in the streets, and dozens of wounded,” said Muhammad al-Hur, an anti-government activist.
Earlier on Sunday, state media confirmed that an explosion had taken place on Beirut street in Damascus, in an area where many government and military buildings are located.
At least seven people were injured in the explosion, at least one critically, state media said. The explosion occurred after explosives planted underneath a car went off in an outdoor lot near the government Labour Union building.
The Grandsons of the Prophet brigade, a part of the Free Syrian Army, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Elsewhere on Sunday, anti-government rights groups said Syrian warplanes had hit targets in the Ghuta area 50km northeast of the capital.
The air raids took place after dawn clashes between pro- and anti-government troops near a security building in Damacus, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.