Annan and Assad agree political approach for Syria
By Marwan Makdesi, Reuters
July 10, 2012, 2:47 pm TWN
DAMASCUS -- U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan said he and President Bashar al-Assad agreed on Monday on an approach to Syria's conflict that he would now take to the opposition, and flew on to Iran for talks with the main regional ally of Damascus.
The former U.N. secretary general is trying to rescue his six-point peace plan, which was worked out with the Syrian government and rebels in April but faltered because the ceasefire it was supposed to begin with never took hold.
Major powers agreed at a meeting with Annan on June 30 that a transitional government should be set up in Syria, but remain at odds over what part Assad might play in the process.
"I just had a positive and constructive discussion with President Assad," Annan said before leaving for Tehran.
"We agreed an approach which I will share with the opposition," he told reporters in Damascus. He gave no details, but again stressed the importance of halting violence that has killed more than 15,000 people in 16 months, by an opposition count.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said in a Twitter message: "In both meetings we reassured Annan of Syria's commitment to implement the 6-point plan and hoped (the) other side is mutually committed."
In a TV interview on Sunday, Assad said he remained committed to Annan's plan and accused the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of supplying arms and logistical support to insurgents fighting to end 42 years of Assad family domination of the pivotal Arab state.
"We know that (Annan) is coming up against countless obstacles but his plan should not be allowed to fail, it is a very good plan," he told Germany's ARD network.
"The main obstacle (is) that many countries don't want (it) to succeed. So they offer political support and they still send armaments and send money to terrorists in Syria," Assad said, according to a transcript of the interview, held in English.
The White House said on Monday it supported Annan's mission but time was running short. "President Assad's behavior has been heinous and we judge him by his actions, not his words," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The U.S. State Department said it had seen no sign of Damascus being ready to stop violence and was skeptical about Annan's chances of making progress in Iran.
"To the extent that he (Annan) can stress to the Iranians the importance of cooperating with the plan that's a good thing, but we haven't seen signs of that either yet," spokesman Patrick Ventrell told a news briefing.