Annan feels Syria mission "on right track" - spokesman

BEIRUT Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:41pm IST

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan reads a statement after his meeting with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus March 11, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan reads a statement after his meeting with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus March 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan feels his Syria mediation mission is on track even though violence still raged as he held talks with President Bashar al-Assad, his spokesman said on Monday.

Annan twice met Assad in Damascus, as well as opposition figures, at the weekend and saw Qatari leaders in Doha on Monday before heading to Turkey.

Before he went to Syria, he held separate talks with the Arab League chief and the foreign ministers of Russia and Saudi Arabia in Cairo, his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

"This is the beginning of a process and the joint special envoy feels the process is on the right track," Fawzi told Reuters by telephone from Qatar.

"He has left a set of concrete proposals with Bashar on a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and political dialogue, and expects to hear from him shortly," Fawzi said.

"He is concerned that the fighting and the killing seem to be continuing while he is trying to put an end to it and while he is trying to talk to Bashar," he said.

Scores of people were reported killed in Syria during Annan's visit, when the military assaulted the rebel-held city of Idlib in the northwest. State media and opposition activists also said dozens of civilians were slain in Homs but gave conflicting accounts of who was responsible.

After his "comprehensive and candid" talks with Assad, Annan said it would be hard to reach a deal but he remained optimistic.

"The situation is so bad and so dangerous that all of us cannot afford to fail," he told reporters in Damascus.

Annan plans to pursue contacts with opposition factions, including the Syrian National Council, the National Coordination Body, the Free Syrian Army and others, and will encourage them to create a unified opposition front.

"It will be a step by step process. We have to get the opposition on board. We have to get the opposition parties to unify under one umbrella," Fawzi added. "And then we have to convince the government to come and meet them in whichever venue he (Annan) proposes."

Annan, who is based in Geneva, also wants foreign powers that have influence with the Syrian government or opposition to use their good offices to promote his mission.

"He has made proposals that he feels will push the process forward," Fawzi said.

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