11 Mar 2012

Annan to hold more talks with Syrian president

8:17 pm on 11 March 2012

Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan will meet Syrian president Bashar al-Assad overnight for a second round of talks on ending the violence between anti-regime rebels and government forces.

Mr Annan appeared to make little headway in his first set of talks on Saturday with Mr Assad refusing to accede to any of Mr Annan's requests, until what he called armed terrorists stopped operating.

Mr Annan asked for access for humanitarian agencies, release of detainees and the start of political dialogue.

Mr al-Assad says he is ready for honest peace efforts, but has rejected any political dialogue as long as "terrorist" groups continue to try to destabilise the country.

Mr Annan's trip is aimed at halting bloodshed that has cost thousands of lives since a popular uprising began in March last year.

Bashar al-Assad told the former UN Secretary-General that no political solution can succeed while "terrorist" groups spread chaos.

The president says he sees the situation as a foreign conspiracy against the country and the government military operation will continue, the BBC reports.

But as violence continues, the opposition sees no means for dialogue.

Many people want a political solution and a peaceful transition to power, but without an end to the military operation, any talks seem far away.

Arab nations, Russia call for end to violence

Arab nations and Russia have agreed that violence in Syria must end.

They also say there is a need for unbiased monitoring of the situation, opposition to foreign intervention, delivering humanitarian aid and support for Mr Annan.

Agreement on the points was announced after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attended a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Egypt to discuss the crisis in Syria, Reuters reports.

Mr Lavrov and Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani announced the agreement at a joint news conference on Saturday.

Sheikh Hamad, who has led calls for Mr Assad to be isolated and for Syrian rebels to be armed, said a ceasefire was not enough. The leaders in Syria must be held to account and political prisoners freed.

"We must send a message to the Syrian regime that the world's patience and our patience has run out, as has the time for silence about its practices."

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said shortcomings in the UN Security Council, where Russia and China have twice vetoed resolutions on Syria, had allowed the killing to go on.

Their position "gave the Syrian regime a licence to extend its brutal practices against the Syrian people," he said.

Rebel bastion attacked

Syrian troops on Saturday attacked the north-western city of Idlib, a rebel bastion.

Sixteen rebel fighters, seven soldiers and four civilians were killed in the Idlib fighting, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said 15 other people, including three soldiers, had been killed in violence elsewhere.