Peace envoy to arrive in Damascus on Monday: source

DAMASCUS: The UN-Arab League envoy to Syria is to arrive in Damascus on Monday as part of a tour aimed at garnering support for proposed peace talks, a government source said.

“Lakhdar Brahimi should be arriving on Monday to discuss preparations for Geneva 2,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity in reference to the talks.

Brahimi’s expected visit comes after 19 powerful rebel groups warned that anyone who negotiates with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will be tried for treason.

It would be the veteran Algerian troubleshooter’s first visit to the war-torn country since late December.

At that time, Brahimi called for “real change” in Syria, and for all powers to be handed over to a transitional government.

Official media in Syria responded to his remarks by branding him as biased and mocking him as an “ageing tourist”.

This time around, Damascus has said the 79-year-old is welcome so long as he stays “impartial”.

Brahimi was appointed the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria in September 2012, after Kofi Annan quit the post.

On Saturday, he was in Tehran, where he said Iran’s participation in peace talks was “necessary”.

His regional tour had previously taken him to Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

On Thursday, he met in Turkey with the head of the main rebel Free Syrian Army, General Selim Idriss, and other opposition commanders.

Brahimi is pushing for regime and rebel representatives to come together at the negotiating table.

Assad on Monday reiterated his position that his regime will not engage in discussion with opponents with ties to the rebels or to any foreign state.

The opposition has insisted it will not participate in Geneva 2 should there not be guarantees that such talks would lead to Assad’s fall.