Vatican Envoy: Syrian Nation Entitled to Decide Own Fate

Vatican's Ambassador to Lebanon Bishop Gabriel Caccia underlined that the Syrian people are the only ones who have the right to determine their own fate,according to FNA.

"The final decision on Syria's political fate should only be made by the people of that country," Caccia said in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Qazanfar Roknabadi in

Beirut .

He described talks and political solution as the only way to settle the crisis in Syria, and stressed Iran's constructive role in the region and Vatican's support for Tehran's six-point plan to solve the crisis in Syria.

Caccia also underlined that the financial and arms aid extended by certain foreign states to the armed groups in Syria is unacceptable.

His remarks came after the Syrian army announced on Monday that it has thwarted a massive attack by a large number of terrorists who were trying to enter Syria through the Jordanian border, and also confiscated Israeli-made missiles and weapons from the armed rebels.

The army confiscated (from terrorists) Israeli-made LAV anti-tank missiles and several wireless equipment which were also made in Israel.

The Syrian army also prevented the armed groups  from crossing into Syria via neighboring Jordan.


Moscow:A meeting between Russia, the US and Brahimi could take place in January

MOSCOW-CAIRO,(ST)-Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov tweeted on Sunday that a meeting between Russia, the US and Brahimi could take place in January.

The UN peace envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said on Sunday he hoped the international community would accept a new plan to end the 21-month crisis in Syria country,according to RIA NOVOSTY.

"I have discussed this plan with Russia and Syria,” Brahimi said in Cairo in a press conference. “I think this proposal could be adopted by the international community.”

" He gave no further details of the peace plan.

Brahimi refuted any statement attributed to him related to the future of the Syrian leadership, pointing that "I did not say that the Syrian President should stay or leave at all and I did not say the government I'm referring to would be formed after the end of his term in 2014, but rather I said that the solution should emerge in 2013…I do not know where this story comes from and why it was ascribed to me..Maybe some people have their own ends."


Merkel Challenger under Fire for Saying Chancellor Underpaid

Chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck was widely criticized on Sunday, even by his own center-left Social Democrats (SPD), for saying German leaders were underpaid, according to Reuters.

Steinbrueck has struggled to gain ground against Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of next September's election, in part due to lingering criticism over him earning 1.25 million euros ($1.65 million) as an after-dinner speaker in the past three years.

The remarks from the former finance minister about what he called the inadequate compensation for the chancellor drew speedy rebukes across the country's political spectrum, including from the last SPD chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"A German chancellor does not earn enough based on the performance that is required of her or him compared with the jobs of others who have far less responsibility and far more pay," Steinbrueck, 65, was quoted on Sunday by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper saying.

"Nearly every savings bank director in North Rhine-Westphalia earns more than the chancellor does," Steinbrueck said of his home state.

Merkel's pay is set to rise by 930 euros per month to 17,106 euros in 2013 along with pay rises for her ministers and members of parliament, increases that have been criticized by some for sending the wrong signal in an era of austerity.

"Some of the debates kicked up by the 'guardians of public virtue' are grotesque and are harmful for anyone considering getting involved in politics," Steinbrueck said.

The SPD trails Merkel's conservatives by 10 points in opinion polls, but, with its Greens allies, it does have a chance of winning power in September because of the prolonged weakness of Merkel's Free Democrat (FDP) coalition partners.



Minister Lavrov: Syrians have to decide their own future

MOSCOW, (ST)_ Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, reiterated here Saturday that the settlement for the crisis in Syria "should be based on the relevant Geneva communiqué calling for the end of violence and dialogue between all.

The Voice of Russia quoted Minister Lavrov as saying, following his talks with the UN Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, that Russia is open for contacts to all Syrian groups in order to reach a settlement.

The situation in Syria remains quite involved, with confrontation growing, and the civilian death toll also steadily on the increase, Lavrov said, urging the world community to help bring UN monitors back to Syria, calling for the inclusion of Iran and Saudi Arabia in the ongoing efforts for solving the crisis.

"The chance for a political settlement remains and it is our obligation to make maximal use of that chance," Lavrov said, asserting that Regime change in Syria "must not be a precondition for a political process", describing such demands as "wrong" and "counterproductive".

Minister Lavrov added that the refusal of the Syrian opposition National Coalition to talk to the Syrian leadership was a "dead-end position", and criticized the coalition leader for rebuffing an invitation for talks with Russia.

"Frankly speaking, it was quite a surprise to me to read his statement that he was willing to meet with me only if we change our position and if we apologize for our position publicly," Lavrov added according to RIA News Agency, pointing out that the problem of regional stability must be paramount to resolve the ongoing conflict.

On his Part, Brahimi was quoted as saying that a Syrian-led political process is the only way for peace in Syria otherwise the country will descend into dire sectarian conflict.

Lavrov seconded Brahimi’s statement, saying that there are still chances for political dialogue and it is the Syrians who have to decide their own future, as well as the future of certain politicians.

"When the National Coalition was formed we drew attention to the fact that it was stated in their platform that their position is uncompromising, their goal is the overthrow of the regime," Lavrov said.

Brahimi also stressed the importance of the agreements reached in Geneva in June, calling it a great achievement of Kofi Annan, Sergey Lavrov, Hilary Clinton and many others.

"If the only alternative is hell or a political process, then all of us have to work continuously toward the political process," Brahimi said, pointing out that it was still possible to reach "a solution that would work" but that the barriers were daunting.

"if you have a panic in Damascus and if you have 1 million people leaving Damascus in a panic, they can go to only two places - Lebanon and Jordan. Neither Lebanon or Jordan can support without breaking 500,000 refugees." Brahimi underscored.



Lavrov meets UN peace envoy in Moscow

A meeting between Russia’s foreign chief Sergei Lavrov and UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has kicked off in Moscow.

The talks focus on an array of political and diplomatic issues around the crisis in Syria and Mr. Brahimi’s latest effort in stopping violence  in the region to launch a nation-wide dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition,according to Voice of Russia.

The UN peace envoy is reportedly poring over a compromise “road-map” plan based on the Geneva resolutions on Syria. The initiative is being discussed with each party to the conflict, media say.

The resolutions were laid down by the Syria Action Group that convened June 30 in Geneva.

The UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has arrived in Moscow for talks with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Brahimi arrived in Moscow from Damascus where he discussed a compromise “road map” for a settlement in   Syria, according to the media.

The First Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, paid a visit to Moscow yesterday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN special envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi will discuss a range of issues in Moscow pertaining to resolving the situation in Syria.

This was announced by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. According to him, talks will focus on Brahimi’s efforts aimed at ending the violence in Syria and launching a national dialogue between the government and the opposition.

The international community should "not incite either side to continue violence , and refrain from setting preconditions," said Lavrov.

UN special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi hopes that the armed conflict in this country will be resolved next year. This was announced by the official spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Martin Nesirky.



Russia hopes ‘reasonable’ Syrian opposition will seek dialogue

Moscow hopes that the Syrian opposition will substantially size up the situation in the country and search for ways to begin a political dialogue with Syrian government, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russian Television (RT) quoted Minister Lavrov as saying Friday that Moscow representatives have already had contacts with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces which was formed in November in Qatar, Lavrov said on Friday. Now Russian diplomats are ready to meet for talks with the leader of the group – Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib. The National Coalition does not object to talks either.

According to Lavrov, Moscow was “certainly disappointed” over the coalition’s main goal, which was proclaimed when it was created in Doha. It stands for the overthrow of the Syrian regime and “the dismantling of all the institutions of power.”

Russia’s main concern is that such a scenario would only lead to non-stop violence in the Arab republic. The only solution is to reach a mutually-acceptable compromise between the rivalry parties.

In July, President Vladimir Putin said that in the case if the Syrian authorities are displaced, “they will simply swap places with the current opposition and this will cause a civil war that would go on for no one knows how long.”

Moscow has also repeatedly stressed that it is up to Syrians to decide the future of their country.

Speaking on Friday, Lavrov underlined that the international community should not incite the sides of the conflict to continue bloodshed. On the contrary, they should urge all the Syrian political, religious and ethnic groups to find ways to come to an agreement on what future they want for their country, the Russian Foreign Minister told the media after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Amr in Moscow.

Russia appreciates the efforts of Egypt – which hosts the Syrian Coalition’s main headquarters – in trying to convince the opposition to agree for a political dialogue, Lavrov added.


Russia invites Syria opposition to negotiations

Russia has invited the head of the so-called Syrian Opposition National Coalition to join negotiations over the unrest in Syria.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Friday, “The invitation has been handed over. It is in the hands of Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.

Bogdanov added that the talks could take place in the Russian capital, Moscow, or a foreign location like Geneva or Cairo.

Russia says its stance toward Syria has not changed, denying the existence of any plan with the United States.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the turmoil in Syria needs a political solution and that Moscow wants to avoid “chaos” in the Arab country.

Bogdanov also stated that there were expectations for three-way negotiations between UN-Arab League Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and representatives of the US and Russia over the Syrian situation in January.

 "We will hear what Lakhdar Brahimi says about the Syrian crisis and likely there will be a decision on a new ‘triple B’ meeting with Lakhdar Brahimi, (US Deputy Secretary of State) William Burns and Mikhail Bogdanov,” he said.

On December 26, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad together with another foreign ministry official headed to Moscow to discuss proposals reportedly made by Brahimi in Damascus earlier this week.

Many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the turmoil that began in Syria in March 2011. The Syrian government says certain Western states, especially the United States, and their regional allies are trying to fuel the unrest.


Peace settlement the only way out of crisis in Syria ,says Lavrov

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called a peace settlement of the crisis in Syria the only way to deal with it without violating agreements of the Geneva Communiqué.

Speaking at a Moscow meeting with Syria’s deputy foreign chief Fayssal Mikdad Thursday, Mr. Lavrov stressed a nation-wide dialogue was key to the political process in the country.

He added the main goal so far was to stop violence in Syria ,according to  Voice of Russia, Interfax

The Geneva Communiqué was endorsed by the Action Group for Syria on 30 June.