3/10/2012

Syria crisis: Kofi Annan meets Assad on peace mission

BBCNEWS

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is holding talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a fresh diplomatic bid to end the violence.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Mr Annan would call for an immediate ceasefire by the army and the opposition.
But as Mr Annan arrived, there were reports of fresh army shelling of the north-western city of Idlib.
Earlier, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said "limited progress" had been made on aid but much more was needed.
Baroness Amos said she had requested full access to the worst-hit areas, but the government had asked for more time.
Calls for reform that began with pro-democracy protests a year ago have degenerated into violence that has brought Syria to the brink of civil war.
The UN says more than 7,500 people have died as a result of the violence.

'All violence must stop'


Mr Annan was met by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad at Damascus airport before being taken to a hotel in the capital ahead of the talks with the president.
Syrian state television said the meeting was held in a "positive" atmosphere.
However, opposition groups said army attacks were continuing on Saturday on the city of Idlib, near the Turkish border.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shelling was the heaviest since army reinforcements arrived earlier in the week and was an apparent prelude to a ground assault, as had happened in the city of Homs.
One activist in Idlib told Reuters by telephone that government tanks were entering the city.
Associated Press reported families fleeing the violence with their belongings.
Mr Ban, the UN secretary-general, earlier spelled out Mr Annan's task.
"Our priority is, first of all, all violence must stop, whether by government forces [or] opposition forces," Mr Ban said.
"I have very strongly urged Kofi Annan to ensure that there must be an immediate ceasefire."
He said that if a ceasefire could not be agreed simultaneously, then government troops should stop first, followed by the opposition.
Mr Ban said Mr Annan - a former UN secretary-general - was also to meet Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in Damascus and then hold talks with opposition leaders after leaving the country on Sunday.
The BBC's Jon Donnison in neighbouring Beirut says it is unclear whether Mr Annan will be able to meet any opposition leaders inside Syria.
Coinciding with Mr Annan's arrival, a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers was taking place in Cairo, attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Mr Lavrov warned against "crude interference" in Syria's internal affairs. He insisted Russia was not "protecting any regimes" but was trying to "protect international law".
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says the tone of the Qatari delegation showed the starkly different pressures facing Mr Annan. The Qataris said it was time to send in Arab and international forces to Syria, as there was a "moral and humanitarian obligation to stop the daily systematic killing there".
The UN has pressed for "dialogue" to end the crisis, although opposition groups have already rejected the idea of talks with President Assad.
Mr Ban also echoed Baroness Amos's calls for Syria to allow aid agencies access to areas badly hit by the violence.
He said that what she had seen in the devastated Baba Amr district of Homs showed there was a "quite serious, alarming situation in terms of humanitarian assistance and human rights".
On Friday, Baroness Amos said the government had indicated that an initial humanitarian assessment could be made within the next week, and that a UN team in Damascus was ready to get to work.
Violence continued on Friday across Syria. The Local Co-ordination Committees said 77 people had been killed, including 26 in Homs, 28 in Idlib, six in Deraa, four in Hama, nine in and around Damascus, two in Latakia and one each in Bokamal and Aleppo.