Annan, Assad agree approach to Syria crisis
Published Monday, July 9, 2012
UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan hailed as "constructive" a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Monday, saying they had agreed a new "'approach" to the crisis.
"I had constructive and candid talks with President Assad," he told reporters at a Damascus hotel, echoing Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi who described the meeting as "constructive and good."
"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.
It was not clear when Annan was due to meet the opposition, and the Iranian official IRNA news agency reported that he was due to visit Tehran immediately after the Assad meeting.
"Kofi Annan, the United Nations envoy, will arrive in Tehran today...at the end of his two-day visit to Syria," the agency said, citing unidentified "news sources."
"Officials from the Islamic Republic of Iran have so far not commented on this," it added.
Earlier Assad said US political support for "terrorists" was hindering the peace envoy's plan to end 16 months of bloodshed.
Assad also accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of supplying the rebels trying to overthrow him with arms and other logistical support.
"We know that (Annan) is coming up against countless obstacles but his plan should not be allowed to fail, it is a very good plan," Assad told German television channel Das Erste.
"The biggest obstacle is that many countries do not even want this plan to succeed so they offer political support and continue to provide the terrorists in Syria with arms and money," Assad said, according to a transcript in German of the interview conducted in English on July 5.
Anti-Assad activists in Syria reported army shelling and clashes with rebels on Monday in Deir Ezzor, Daraa, Homs, Aleppo and a neighborhood of Damascus. Residents also reported the sound of gunfire in the capital.
Syria's official news agency, SANA, reported clashes in Deir Ezzor and Homs, stating armed forces inflicted "heavy losses" upon the rebels, without specifying how many.
A Syrian state TV crew was also attacked in Homs province, according to SANA, with injuries sustained to the driver, while the army reportedly thwarted an attempt by rebels to cross into the northern Idlib province from Turkey.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that Syrian opposition forces were growing more effective and the sooner the violence ended, the better the chances of sparing Syria's government a "catastrophic assault" by rebel fighters were.
While Assad has faced sanctions and international condemnation over his crackdown on dissent, major Western and Arab powers have shied away from direct military action.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have both openly declared their intent to fund and arm rebels, including Islamist insurgents, while Western states have so far remained largely reluctant, providing only "non-lethal" aid to rebels.
Turkey has reinforced its border and scrambled fighter aircraft several times since Syria shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet on June 22 over what Damascus said were Syrian territorial waters in the Mediterranean. Ankara said the incident occurred in international air space.
Syria's navy fired live missiles from ships and helicopters over the weekend, in an exercise aimed at demonstrating its ability to "defend Syria's shores against any possible aggression", state media said.