Russia calls for Syrian "Taif" accord

Published Monday, September 10, 2012

Russia is proposing the organization of a conference bringing together "all the players" of the deadly Syria conflict, including opposition groups, citizens and the ruling regime, a top official told a French newspaper.

"We are proposing to our Western partners the organization of a 'Taif conference' between all the players of the conflict," Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Le Figaro in an article to appear Wednesday.

He was referring to an agreement signed in the Saudi city that brought the end of the Lebanon civil war in 1990.

"This conference should bring together opposition and regime figures as well as Christian, Alawite and Druze community members," Bogdanov added.

"Given the opposition divisions and the weapons reaching the rebels, the risk of a Somalia-ization of Syria is real, if the regime were to suddenly collapse tomorrow. We must do all we can to avoid this disintegration of a centralized state," he said.

The same newspaper on Monday quoted Bogdanov as saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told Russia he would be ready to step aside if Syrians chose another leader in an election

"Assad told us himself. But I don't know how sincere he is," Bogdanov said. "But he clearly told us that if the people didn't want him, and if they chose a different leader in an election, he would go."

According to Le Figaro, the Russian official was in Paris over the weekend, where he met French diplomats and Syrian opposition figures.

The Taif agreement was signed October 22, 1989 by Muslim lawmakers and Lebanese Christians to end the 15-year civil war.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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