Annan holds 2nd round of talks with Syria's Assad

UN-Arab League envoy attempts to make progress in efforts to promote a ceasefire after 1st round of talks yields few results.

By REUTERS, OREN KESSLER
March 11, 2012 14:34
1 minute read.
Assad meets UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan

Assad meets Kofi Annan 390. (photo credit: REUTERS/SANA/Handout )

BEIRUT - Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, on a difficult peace mission to Syria, held a second day of talks with President Bashar Assad on Sunday as Syrian forces pursued a drive to crush rebel bastions in the northwest.

A UN spokesman said the two men had resumed talks at the presidential palace. He gave no details, but said Annan was expected to leave Syria for Qatar when the meeting concluded.

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Annan, joint envoy of the United Nations and Arab League, appeared to make little headway on Saturday in a "candid and comprehensive" meeting with Assad, who blamed the bloodshed on "terrorists" seeking to destabilize Syria.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said he told Annan Syria would help in "any honest effort to find a solution" to a year-long conflict that has cost thousands of lives.

But there was no sign he had accepted what a UN spokesman said were Annan's proposals for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid access, release of detainees and a political dialogue.

Syrians involved in a popular uprising against Assad say there can be no meaningful dialogue with a leader who has inflicted such violence and suffering on his own people.

Annan met Syrian religious leaders, including the mufti, the senior Sunni Muslim authority, and the Greek Orthodox Christian patriarch, on Sunday before he saw Assad again.

Annan's mission has coincided with a Syrian military offensive against opposition strongholds in the northwest.

Three soldiers and a civilian were killed in fighting in the village of Janoudiya in Idlib province on Sunday morning, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Its British-based director, Rami Abdulrahman, said Idlib city was quieter after Saturday's tank-led assault, suggesting outgunned rebels had withdrawn or decided not to confront the army, which has launched an offensive in the northwest after recapturing insurgent strongholds in the city of Homs last week.

The Observatory said 39 civilians, including 25 in Idlib province, were killed on Saturday, along with 39 rebels and 20 government soldiers, giving an overall death toll of 98.

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