El-Arabi to visit Moscow over Syria
Dina Ezzat, Wednesday 25 Jan 2012
The head of the Arab League will next week head to Moscow to discuss with one of Syria's key allies the prospect of encouraging Damascus to be flexible to outside mediation relative to ongoing internal strife

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi is due in Moscow early next week for talks with senior Russian officials over the situation in Syria and the fate of Arab mediation there.

According to Arab League officials, two key matters will top the agenda of talks to be conducted: the first is to lobby Russia, the strongest ally of the Bashar Al-Assad regime, to convince the Syrian regime to agree to an initiative for the transition of power to Al-Assad's vice president in a first step towards regime change; the second is to ask Moscow to encourage Damascus to permit entry to a high level Arab League delegation to discuss the power transfer initiative.

During a recent Arab League ministerial meeting, several member states, essentially the six member states of the politically and financially influential Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), proposed the power transfer initiative to the Arab League for adoption. The initiative is much like the one signed recently by outgoingYemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, aimed at ended protracted violence amid ongoing protests against Saleh's rule.

According to Arab and foreign diplomats, Iraq had already proposed the initiative to Syria — in view of the relatively good contacts between leaders on both sides — but it was received with hardly any interest.

Meanwhile, Arab League officials say that El-Arabi has officially requested that Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and until recently a runner in Egypt's prospective presidential race, to head the high level Arab mission in the coming weeks, to discuss ways of ending the current turmoil.

As a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, ElBaradei would be — according to the Arab League plan — in company of five other leading Arab figures, including former prime ministers and former foreign ministers from several Arab states. "But he is the only Nobel Laureate and as such he is in a higher status and is sort of head of the delegation," said one Arab League official.

ElBaradei visited the Arab League Tuesday to discuss the matter, including the possible evolution of a joint Arab League-UN mission.

"He gave his agreement in principle, but of course we also have to have the agreement of Syria on the composition of the high level committee," said the same Arab League official.

Syrian sources in Cairo declined comment on the matter and insisted on expressing the dismay of Damascus over what they qualify as the Arab League's "unfair and biased position towards Syria."