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International envoy warns of failed state in Syria

Monday, December 31, 2012

(Photo)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses residents of a Turkish village near the Syrian border in Sanliurfa, Turkey on Sunday. Erdogan repeated a call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.
(Kayhan Ozer ~ Associated Press)
BEIRUT -- The international envoy seeking to end Syria's civil war warned Sunday that the failure of the government and the rebels to pursue a political solution could lead to the "full collapse of the Syrian state" and threaten the world's security.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who represents the United Nations and the Arab League, said as many as 100,000 people could be killed next year as Syria moves toward "Somalization" and rule by warlords.

Brahimi has reported little progress in his mission to push forward a peace plan for Syria first presented in June at an international conference in Geneva. The proposal calls for an open-ended cease-fire and the formation of a transitional government to run the country until new elections can be held and a new constitution drafted.

Neither the regime of President Bashar Assad nor the scores of rebel groups fighting his forces across the country have shown any interest in negotiations.

The rebels' political leadership has called Assad's departure a prerequisite for any political solution, and it is unlikely that the opposition's National Coalition could stop rebels on the ground from continuing to fight.

Likewise, it is doubtful top members of Assad's regime will voluntarily give up power.

The Syrian government has remained officially mum on Brahimi's plan, which he has pushed during the past week in meetings with Assad in Damascus, with top Russian officials in Moscow and on Sunday with the head of the Arab League in Cairo.

Speaking alongside Nabil Elaraby on Sunday, he estimated that 100,000 people could be killed if the 21-month conflict continues for another year.

On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Syrian refugees along Turkey's southern border, where he was joined by Mouaz al-Khatib, head of Syria's National Coalition.

Erdogan called for Assad to step down and said that Syria is experiencing "a holy birth."

"That holy birth is the coming to power of the will of the people," he said as refugees chanted his name.

Activists reported violence around Syria on Sunday.

Rebels in the north clashed with government troops near military bases in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo and seized an oil pumping station in al-Raqqa.

"Peace and security in the world will be threatened directly from Syria if there is no solution within the next few months," he said. "The alternatives are a political solution or the full collapse of the Syrian state."

Since meeting Assad early last week, Brahimi has given no indication how his plan was received. When asked Sunday if there is any willingness among the opposition to enter a political process, Brahimi said, "No, there isn't. This is the problem."

Syria's crisis began in March 2011 with political protests against Assad. The conflict has since evolved into a civil war. Anti-regime activists say more than 45,000 people have been killed.

The Syria government does not provide death tolls for the conflict and says the rebels are terrorists backed by foreign powers who seek to destroy the country.

The Syrian conflict has split world powers, with the United States, Turkey and many European and Arab states calling for Assad to stand down. Russia, China and Iran have stood by the regime and criticized calls for Assad's ouster.

The station receives crude oil from the nearby province of Hassakha and pumps it to one of Syria's two oil refineries in Homs, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory also said rebels stormed a government air base in the area of Tel Hassir south of Aleppo, while government fighter jets launched deadly airstrikes near Aleppo, Hama and in a number of rebellious Damascus suburbs.

Activists also reported two car bombs in the Yarmouk district of Damascus, where most residents are Palestinian refugees.


Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Sarah El Deeb in Cairo contributed to this report.


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