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Al Assad 'agrees' on new political approach

UN envoy Kofi Annan admits peace plan is largely a failure

Kofi Annan with Bashar Al Assad
Image Credit: AP
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency Sana, shows United Nations-Arab League special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan (left) meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad (centre) in Damascus, Syria on July 9, 2012.
Gulf News

Damascus: International envoy Kofi Annan said he agreed with President Bashar Al Assad on Monday on a new political “approach” to end Syria’s conflict that would be put to the rebels.

“We discussed the need to end the violence and ways and means of doing so. We agreed an approach which I will share with the armed opposition,” he told reporters after meeting Al Assad in Damascus.

The former UN chief, whose military observers in Syria have been grounded due to escalating violence, said he “stressed the importance of moving ahead with political dialogue, which the president accepted.”

The Al Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, said the Annan-Al Assad talks focused on the results of the Geneva meeting at the end of June of an international contact group on Syria.

They discussed means “to implement the results of the meeting…on forming a transitional government in Syria that groups government and opposition representatives without mention of Al Assad’s departure.”

World powers at the meeting agreed a plan for a transition which did not make an explicit call for Al Assad to quit power, although the West and the opposition made clear it saw no role for him in a unity government.

Annan said his talks were “constructive and candid,” echoing Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi who termed the meeting “constructive and good.”

On his Twitter account, Makdissi said: “We reassured Annan of Syria’s commitment to implement the six-point plan and hoped other side is mutually committed.”

Annan said he had received those assurances, but said the plan must be carried out “in a much better fashion” than before.

“I am leaving Syria but we will continue our dialogue, and as I said, the approach we discussed about ending the violence will be shared with the armed opposition,” Annan said.

“We have a team here on the ground that will continue to do that and I encourage the government and other entities with influence to help us do that,” he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Friday for the observer mission in Syria be scaled down and to refocus on political efforts to end the conflict.

The United Nations sent 300 observers to monitor an April 12 truce, but their mission was suspended in mid-June when chief observer Major General Robert Mood said the conditions for his team on the ground had become too dangerous.

More than 17,000 people have now died since the uprising began in March last year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.