Annan to meet Syria’s Assad on tattered peace plan

2012-07-09 08:40

UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan will meet in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad for talks on his six-point peace plan.

The meeting will take place today, a day after nearly 100 people were reportedly killed in Syria.

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) slammed Annan’s decision to meet Assad, saying thousands have been killed in the country despite a ceasefire that is a key point of the envoy’s plan.

Ahead of his trip to Damascus, the former UN secretary-general 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 a defiant interview last night, Assad told German public broadcaster ARD that many countries were undermining Annan’s peace 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 to stop bloodshed because “many countries don’t want it to succeed”.

Annan arrived in Damascus yesterday for his third meeting since he was tasked in February with brokering an end to the conflict, according to his Geneva-based office.

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”.

Meanwhile, the Syrian navy staged live fire exercises at the weekend to “simulate the scenario of repelling a sudden attack from the sea,” state news agency SANA reported.

Republican US Senator John McCain yesterday took President Barack Obama’s administration to task for what he called its “shameful and disgraceful” response to the bloodshed in Syria.

“The fact is that the United States has played no leadership role,” McCain told CBS television, referring to efforts to halt Syria’s crackdown.

On the ground today, the Syrian army was clashing with rebels in several main cities across the country, including the capital Damascus, Deir Ezzor in the east and Homs in central Syria, the Observatory said.

More than 17 000 people have now died since the uprising began in March last year, according to the Observatory. The figure is impossible to verify, and the UN has stopped keeping a toll.

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