The international envoy seeking a solution to Syria's 21-month-old conflict said on Thursday political change was needed to end violence and called for a transitional government to rule until elections.
Speaking in Damascus at the end of a five-day trip during which he met President Bashar al-Assad, Lakhdar Brahimi did not spell out detailed proposals but said that only substantial change would meet the demands of ordinary Syrians.
Brahimi called for “real change” in Syria and the installation of a transitional government until elections can be held. But he made no mention on the fate of Assad, whose term expires in 2014.
The Syrian opposition National Coalition said on Thursday it would accept any solution for a political transition as long as it excludes 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.
“Our first condition for them is to leave the country,” Bunni said in remarks translated from Arabic, referring to the Assad family and the regime’s inner circle.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a senior Syrian diplomat on Thursday that the crisis in Syria must be resolved through dialogue rather than force.
Meeting Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad, Lavrov underscored “the lack of an alternative to a peaceful resolution of (Syria’s) internal conflict through a broad inter-Syria dialogue and political process,” a ministry statement said.
A Syrian government delegation led by Muqdad on Thursday held talks at the Russian foreign ministry as Moscow denied the existence of a joint plan with the United States to end the crisis in the country.
Western media reports have speculated on a new Russia-U.S. initiative that would allow Assad to stay in power. Moscow has already denied the existence of any such joint plans.
The meeting came amid a flurry of end-of-year diplomacy in Russia over the Syrian crisis that will also see talks between Brahimi and Lavrov on Saturday.
The conflict in Syria has killed more than 45,000 people since it began with a brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in March 2011, according to rights groups.