Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomes Nabil Elaraby as she hosts a gathering of Friends of Syria group in New York (AP/David Karp))
raq’s foreign minister has proposed a two-stage plan to bring both sides of the Syrian conflict together to discuss a political transition in the hope of ending the 18-month war that has killed more than 30,000 people.
Hoshyar Zebari said he made the proposal at a ministerial meeting of 20 countries mainly opposed to the government of President Bashar Assad. The closed meeting of key members of the Friends of Syria was chaired by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.
“The discussions were very good,” he said. “I think everyone…recognised the need for a political transition - no pre-conditions - not to adopt maximalist positions.”
The first stage would be to bring together the countries that endorsed a blueprint leading to a political transition that was adopted in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 30 to now focus on implementing its planks, Mr Zebari said.
The second stage would be to invite representatives of the government and the opposition, both inside and outside Syria, to a conference in a neutral country outside the Middle East.
He said international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi would have to carry the plan forward.
At the Geneva meeting, the five veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council who are deeply divided over Syria joined other key countries interested in Syria to approve a broad framework that would require both the opposition and the Assad regime to agree to a new interim government for the country, leading to elections.
The plan also would require Syrian security forces to have the confidence of both sides.
The Geneva meeting was called by Mr Brahimi’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, after Russia and China had vetoed two Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to stop fighting and start negotiations. Moscow and Beijing vetoed a third resolution that raised the threat of sanctions against Assad on July 20.
Mr Zebari said the tone of the Friends of Syria meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual ministerial session was positive and pragmatic. “Before it was very difficult to present such ideas,” he said. “Really now, everybody is becoming more and more concerned and more realistic.”