International envoy Kofi Annan said he agreed with President Bashar al-Assad on Monday on a new “approach” to end Syria’s 16-month-old conflict that he would put to the rebels.
Stepping up political efforts to halt the carnage, the UN-Arab League envoy was reportedly to travel on to Iran, Syria’s close ally.
“We discussed the need to end the violence and ways and means of doing so. We agreed an approach which I will share with the armed opposition,” Annan said after meeting Assad in Damascus.
The former UN chief said he had a “constructive” meeting with Assad, on his third such mission for talks on his six-point peace plan for Syria since he was appointed in February.
“I had constructive and candid talks with President Assad,” he told reporters at a Damascus hotel, echoing Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi who termed the meeting “constructive and good”.
The meeting came a day after nearly 100 people were reportedly killed in Syria and at a time of apparently uncompromising anger from the opposition.
The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) slammed Annan’s decision to meet Assad.
Ahead of his trip to Damascus, Annan admitted his peace blueprint has so far failed to stem the bloodshed in Syria, in remarks published by French newspaper Le Monde.
He also expressed frustration that while Moscow and Iran are mentioned by some as stumbling blocks to peace, “little is said about other countries which send arms, money, and have a presence on the ground.”And, in an defiant interview late on Sunday, Assad told German public broadcaster ARD that many countries were undermining Annan’s initiative.
The United States is “part of the conflict. They offer the umbrella and political support to those gangs to… destabilise Syria,” said the embattled Syrian leader.
Assad said the Annan plan had failed because “many countries don’t want it to succeed.”
His decision to travel to Damascus and hold talks with Assad was criticised by the SNC, the main opposition group in exile which cited the high death toll since they agreed an April 12 ceasefire.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, estimates that 5,898 people have been killed since the truce was announced.
“In this context, Annan chose to meet with the symbols of the Syrian regime, while abstaining from the Friends of Syria conference in Paris,” the SNC said, asserting that Syrians “cannot justify these steps”.
It also questioned Annan’s support for Iran to play a diplomatic role, saying that “Tehran’s support for its allies in the Syrian regime makes them partners in the aggression on the Syrian people.” (AFP)