Members of the Arab League and the Syrian National Coalition have drafted new proposals aimed at ending the Syrian civil war. Their plans come in anticipation of a US-Russia backed peace conference slated for June.
Two separate committees of Middle Eastern leaders convened on Thursday, seeking to outline their official positions and proposals ahead of the Geneva 2 conference.
In Cairo, Arab League Secretary Nabil al-Arabi and Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim, who heads the Syria committee, said in a statement following the committee's meeting that they planned to "submit the points to the five permanent members of the Security Council." In doing so, they hoped "to help the next international conference in Geneva succeed."
No immediate details were available regarding the content of the Arab League initiative. However, an official present at Thursday's meeting told the news agency AFP on the condition of anonymity that the League's draft focused on political solution to end the civil war and the deployment of UN peacekeepers to ensure stability in Syria.
Draft gives al-Assad safe passage
Meanwhile, on the first day of the Syria National Coalition's (SNC) three-day conference in Istanbul, the group's former chief, Moaz al-Khatib, published his own initiative for a transitional government in Syria on his Facebook page.
Under Al-Khatib's proposal, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would have 20 days to relinquish power and to leave "the country along with five hundred people whom he will select, along with their families and children, to any other country that may choose to host them."
Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki or Vice President Farouq al-Shara would then oversee a 100-day transitional period during which a government would be selected.
It was unclear whether al-Khatib's initiative would be discussed during the deliberations in Istanbul.
Strong evidence of the deployment of chemical weapons by both sides in the war prompted Washington and Moscow earlier this month to organize an international peace conference, but demands from the Syrian regime and the opposition fighters trying to oust al-Assad have hindered their efforts. The SNC has set al-Assad's resignation as a precondition for its own participation in negotiations. Thus far, the Syrian president has refused to relinquish power.
Syria tensions rise in Tripoli
As international leaders worked to lay the foundation for upcoming peace talks, fighting in the border town of Qusair continued.
Over the weekend, Syrian government troops launched an assault on the strategic town, which lies close to the northern Lebanon border.
At least 45 Hezbollah fighters helping al-Assad's military have died since the fighting this week, according to figures released by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday.
The assault on the border town appeared to raise tensions in Lebanon's port city, Tripoli. At least five people were killed in clashes between ethnic Sunnis, who support the Syrian opposition, and ethnic Alawites, who support al-Assad.
Control of Qusair would give al-Assad's regime access to the Mediterranean Sea and cut off an arms supply route used by opposition forces. Lebanese Cabinet minister Faisal Karami characterize the violence as the worst since the end of his country's civil war in 1990.
kms/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)