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As the U.S. and Others Toss Syria’s Envoys, Is Moscow Changing Its Mind About Assad? | TIME

By Rania Abouzeid

International envoy to Syria Kofi Annan met Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Tuesday, in a bid to salvage Anna’s battered plan for peace. “He conveyed in frank terms his view to President Assad that the six-point plan cannot succeed without bold steps to stop the violence and release detainees, and stressed the importance of full implementation of the plan,” Annan’s office said in a statement. For his part, Assad “affirmed to Annan that the success of his plan depends on stopping weapon smuggling and curbing terrorism and those who support it,” the state’s SANA news agency said.

It is not the first time Annan has been in Damascus to push his six-point plan. And it’s not the first time Assad has said that he’s implementing it.

But the key to breaking the stalemate, some observers say, isn’t in Damascus, it’s in Moscow. Russia has steadfastly provided political cover for its key Middle Eastern ally, shielding Damascus from diplomatic censure by twice wielding its veto in the United Nations Security Council. On Tuesday a host of Western nations including the U.S., Britain, France, Australia and Italy tossed Syrian diplomats out of their capitals, but Moscow has routinely ignored the growing international outcry. It has continued to ship arms to a regime intent on pursuing what Assad has termed a “security solution” to the 15-month crisis, even while it insists that inter-Syrian dialogue, not violence, is the only hope for the troubled country.

Some observers say that the Houla massacre over the weekend, which left more than a hundred Syrians dead, including at least 32 children, may have prompted a shift in Russia’s stance. Indeed, Moscow signed onto a UN press statement that condemned the Syrian government’s role in the slaughter. Moscow was expected to block it.


Photo: AFP/HO/Shaam News Network

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