Annan meets Assad to salvage his peace plan
Kofi Annan: Held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
09 July 2012
Kofi Annan held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus today in a last-ditch effort to salvage his peace plan.
UN envoy Mr Annan is the architect of a six-point plan to end the violence in Syria. But he has acknowledged that international efforts to find a political solution have failed so far.
Today he said the talks were “constructive and candid”. Mr Annan arrived at the Dama Rose hotel in the Syrian capital, where UN observers have been staying since they suspended their patrols because of rising violence.
Mr Annan’s plan had called for a ceasefire to begin in April between government forces and rebels seeking to topple Mr Assad. But the truce never held and almost 300 observers sent to monitor it are stuck in their hotels.
Mr Assad claimed US political support for “terrorist” rebels was hindering peace efforts. He accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of giving rebels arms and logistical support. In an interview yesterday with German broadcaster ARD, he said: “We know [Mr Annan] is coming up against countless obstacles but his plan should not be allowed to fail, it is a very good plan.
“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.” He said he believed most Syrians support him.
He spoke as his armed forces conducted “large-scale” manoeuvres to test “combat readiness” against “any possible aggression”. State news agency Sana reported: “Our navy started to conduct an operational tactical manoeuvre with live ammunition, during which naval and coastal rockets were fired.”
Tensions with Turkey are high after Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet last month. Turkey has deployed anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers on its border.
In Syria, anti-Assad activists reported shelling by the army and clashes with rebels today in Deir Ez-zor, Deraa, Homs, Aleppo and Damascus. An activist website said more than 100 people died yesterday. Speaking in Tokyo yesterday, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said rebel armed forces were growing more effective. “The sooner there can be … a beginning of a political transition, not only will fewer people die, but there is a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault,” she added. “The sand is running out of the hour glass.”
A meeting of major powers in Paris last week called for a transitional unity government in Syria.