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Assad sends envoy to Moscow for talks on ending Syria's conflict

The Syrian senior diplomat is expected to discuss the UN mediator's proposals for ending the conflict. Russia, meanwhile, has signaled growing acceptance of President Assad exiting power.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, December 20. Any solution to the conflict in Syria must ensure President Bashar al-Assad's forces and his opponents do not simply swap roles and fight on forever, Putin said on Thursday.

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a senior diplomat to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals to end the conflict convulsing his country made by international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Syrian and Lebanese sources said.

Brahimi, who saw Assad on Monday and is planning to hold a series of meetings with Syrian officials and dissidents in Damascus this week, is trying to broker a peaceful transfer of power, but has disclosed little about how this might be done.

More than 44,000 Syrians have been killed in a revolt against four decades of Assad family rule, a conflict that began with peaceful protests in March last year, but has since descended into civil war.

A video posted by rebels on Wednesday showed the bodies of dozens of soldiers executed by a roadside. At least one of them appeared to have been beaten to death. The United Nations and rights group say the military and rebels have both committed war crimes, but have so far placed most of the blame on the army.

Past peace efforts have floundered, with world powers divided over what has become an increasingly sectarian struggle between mostly Sunni Muslim rebels and Assad's security forces, drawn primarily from his Shiite-rooted Alawite minority.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad flew to Moscow to discuss the details of the talks with Brahimi, said a Syrian security source, who would not say if a deal was in the works.

However, a Lebanese official close to Damascus said Makdad had been sent to seek Russian advice on a possible agreement.

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