No Talks With Opposition, Syria’s Assad Tells U.N. Envoy
High-level diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting in Syria yielded mixed results on Saturday as President Bashar al-Assad shut the door on any immediate negotiations with the opposition and escalated a new military assault on the city of Idlib.
Mr. Assad told the United Nations envoy Kofi Annan that such talks would be fruitless as long as “terrorist groups” were operating in the country.
“No political dialogue or political activity can succeed while there are armed terrorist groups operating and spreading chaos and instability,” the state news agency, SANA, quoted Mr. Assad as saying.
Mr. Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, was sent to Damascus by the United Nations and the Arab League to try to negotiate a cease-fire. He was due to meet with Mr. Assad again on Sunday.
In a glimmer of progress, however, an Arab League meeting in Cairo yielded an agreement with Russia that Arab countries hope could lead to a new United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria.
The Arab states dropped their calls for Mr. Assad to hand over power to his deputy, and endorsed a five-point plan that calls for a halt to the violence on both sides and a dialogue between the Syrian government and its opponents, The Associated Press reported.
The agreement was seen by Arab ministers as a path toward a Security Council resolution that would be acceptable to Russia, Syria’s main international backer.
Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution last month that would have backed an Arab League plan to end the violence.