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Armed Conflicts

U.N. Envoy Warns of Syria Crisis Spillover

DOHA, Qatar, Oct 17 2012 - Syria’s 19-month conflict can set the entire region ablaze, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has told reporters in Lebanon.

“This crisis cannot remain confined within Syrian territory,” Brahimi 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 Oct. 26.

The joint UN-Arab League envoy 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.”

He said he was visiting Syria’s neighbours to listen to their views on the crisis. He added he would visit Damascus, but did not specify the date.

Arab League support

Arab League chief Nabil ElArabi, 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.

The U.N. envoy’s proposal was also discussed during a bilateral meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of a regional summit in Baku on Tuesday, according to Davutoglu.

“Iran has declared support (for the ceasefire proposal),” he said.

But in Damascus, state-run Al-Thawra newspaper, a government mouthpiece, said Brahimi’s initiative would likely fail because the rebels fighting to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime has 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. Many do not communicate with each other.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said in a statement to the state news agency 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.

*Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.

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