BEIRUT - Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi made a new push Thursday to draw Syrian officials and rebels into negotiations, aiming to revive a plan for a transitional government and elections that faltered because of disagreements over the future of President Bashar al-Assad.
The effort by the Algerian diplomat came after weeks in which both sides in Syria have been focused more on fighting. Rebels appear to be making gains, seizing military bases and fighting for control of suburbs around the capital, Damascus.
On Tuesday, the head of Syria's military police announced he had defected, joining a number of other officers and soldiers who have deserted Assad's government.
In a boost for Brahimi, Russia's foreign minister said after meeting with a senior Syrian official that his country endorsed the peace plan originally crafted in the summer, and that Syrians on both sides of the 21-month-old conflict needed to enter a dialogue.
However, any effort to find a peaceful solution could founder on disagreement over the role of Assad in a transitional government.
Washington has demanded that Assad go. Moscow has distanced itself from the Syrian president in recent weeks, but has refused to break with Assad. But even if the international community can agree, the Syrians themselves might not go along. Assad has vowed to stay in office while rebels refuse anything less than his ouster.
Brahimi, who has been in Damascus for five days, plans to travel to Moscow soon for talks. He told reporters in the Syrian capital that the plan signed in Geneva by Russia, the United States, Turkey, China, Britain, and the Arab League could quickly end the war if implemented.
The plan called for a transitional government to lead Syria until elections. The document left open whether Assad or his officials could serve in the body.
"I am sure that the Geneva conference held in June this year includes elements that are sufficient for a plan to end the crisis in the next few coming months," Brahimi told reporters in Damascus. "Syria and the Syrian people need, want and look forward to real change."