Annan to meet Syria's Assad on Saturday - U.N.'s Ban

UNITED NATIONS Fri Mar 9, 2012 10:44pm GMT

1 of 5. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al Araby (R) meets with Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy on Syria at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo March 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan will meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday on a peace mission to Syria, where pro-democracy protests have deteriorated into near civil war, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.

Ban told reporters in New York that he held a conference call with Annan and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Araby earlier on Friday. He said Annan planned to leave Damascus on Sunday to visit other countries in the region.

"He's (Annan) going to meet President Assad tomorrow morning in Damascus," Ban said. "And he'll be meeting civil society leaders."

"All three of us (Ban, Annan and Elaraby) share the same concerns, same priorities and same approaches," he said. "Our priority is, first of all, all violence must stop, whether by government forces (or) opposition forces."

"I have very strongly urged Kofi Annan to ensure that there must be an immediate ceasefire," Ban said, adding that it would be ideal if both the rebels and government forces halted their fighting simultaneously.

If that is not possible, then government forces should stop first and the opposition should follow immediately. After that, Ban said, there should be "inclusive political solutions" found through dialogue.

On Friday in Syria, government forces killed at least 54 people. In the rebellious central city of Homs, tank rounds and mortar bombs crashed into opposition districts, killing 17, while 24 were killed in the northern province of Idlib and more deaths were reported elsewhere.

Syrian security forces have killed well over 7,500 people since the anti-Assad uprising began a year ago, according to a U.N. estimate. The government said in December that "armed terrorists" had killed more than 2,000 soldiers and police.

Ban said it is also necessary to ensure access for humanitarian aid agencies, something U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos attempted to arrange during her visit to Syria this week.

He added that Annan, a former U.N. chief and Ban's predecessor, would meet with Syrian opposition leaders outside of Syria as well.

After leaving Syria, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Friday in Ankara that she had demanded unhindered access for humanitarian aid to victims of Syria's turmoil, but President Bashar al-Assad's government had not yet given it.

Ban said that what Amos saw in the devastated Baba Amr district of Homs, which was under siege for a month, showed that there was a "quite serious, alarming situation in terms of humanitarian assistance and human rights."

Amos wants "robust and sustainable humanitarian access" throughout Syria, he said.

(Writing by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Philip Barbara)

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Comments (3)
Wvandamme wrote:
The west can now show it wants to stop the killings by criticising these rebells for refusing any dialogue. I doubt however Sarkozy and others will go that way. They love war and the destruction of Syria.

Mar 09, 2012 8:12am GMT  --  Report as abuse
StepAbbott wrote:
“…opposition activists said.”

“Activists” have become more sophisticated in their selection of stories, at least trying to sort out whether Syrian Forces were using heavy weapons or “nail bombs”. I never saw the credulous media, however, assess whether a government with modern weapons would resort to nail bombs, nor who else might.

The source, though is still supposedly the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, with their one single spokesperson, who in turn has a fictitious name, who is based in London, and has no street address.

The credulous media might once again ask itself, who else might use mortars, if anyone did. Perhaps one might consider who is, and has always been, openly denouncing talks as a solution.

What happened to journalists? Is anyone following up, or even acknowledging reports of special forces illegally active in Syria? If you have not the resources to follow up, would it be in the mandate of a news media, to at least report it?

Sincerely, Stephen P. Abbott

Mar 09, 2012 3:52pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
spudddddddd wrote:
Any dialogue would be a good thing but with Assad there’s no hope unless someone has a bullet with his name on it. The destruction of Israel has already been done by Israeli’s.

Mar 09, 2012 6:51pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
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