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Russia Backs Kofi Annan Idea of Syria Unity Govt

Russia and other big powers have told mediator Kofi Annan that they support his idea of a Syrian national unity cabinet that could include government and opposition members but would exclude those whose participation would undermine it, envoys said on Wednesday.

Annan’s proposal for a political transition aimed at ending the 16-month conflict in Syria is one of the main topics that Russia, the other four permanent Security Council members and key players in the Middle East will discuss at a meeting in Geneva on Saturday, diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

One diplomat summarized Annan’s proposal, saying the Syria conflict can only end when all sides see a peaceful way to a shared future.”

Annan made clear it was “vital that (any) settlement (be) irreversible, (with) clear transition steps in fixed timeline,” he said.

“These include establishing a transitional national unity government to create a neutral backdrop for transition,” the diplomat said in his summary of Annan’s plan.

“It could comprise present government members, opposition and others, but would need to exclude those whose continued participation or presence would jeopardize the transition’s credibility, or harm prospects for reconciliation and stability.”

The diplomat added that the idea of excluding certain people was clearly referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though Annan’s proposal does not explicitly say Assad could not serve in a national unity government.

That gives Russia the option of insisting that Assad be allowed to stay in power.

“The Russians signaled to Annan that they accept his transition plan,” he said.

Several Western diplomats confirmed his remarks, adding that all five permanent veto-wielding UN Security Council members backed it.

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