A second meeting between an international envoy and Syria's president appears to have made little progress towards peace. However Kofi Annan said he remained hopeful.
A second meeting between the United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to have led to little progress being made towards ending the bloodshed in Syria.
Following Sunday's meeting in Damascus, Annan admitted to reporters that stopping the violence would be no easy task.
"It's going to be tough. It's going to be difficult, but we have to have hope," the former UN secretary-general said.
He added that he had given President Assad a "set of concrete proposals" aimed at ending the crisis.
"Our discussions focussed on the core objective of this process, the immediate stop to the violence and the killing, access for humanitarian agencies and the start of a political dialogue," Annan said.
The envoy also told the Syrian president that sooner or later he would have no choice but to embrace democratic reforms.
"I have urged the president to heed the African proverb which says you cannot turn the wind, so turn the sail," the native of Ghana said.
There was no immediate response from Assad. Following their first round of talks on Saturday, though, the official Syrian news agency described their discussions as having taken place in a “positive atmosphere.” It also said Assad would welcome any "honest" attempt at making peace but that there could be no end to the bloodshed as long as what he described as "terrorists" remained active in the country.
Annan also met with religious leaders on Sunday, before setting off for Qatar.
The violence in Syria raged on despite the peace envoy's presence in the country, with activists reporting more fighting in Idlib province on Sunday.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that three soldiers and a civilian were klled in the village of Janoudiya. The organization's director, Rami Abdulrahman told the Reuters news agency that fighting in the city of Idlib had died down following a major assault by government troops on Saturday. He said dozens of people had died in the city, located near the border with Turkey, on Saturday, including 25 civilians.
Such reports are impossible to independently confirm due to a ban on foreign journalists from reporting in Syria.
The UN estimates that more than 7,500 people have died in Syria since demonstrations demanding political reforms first broke out one year ago. Damascus says rebels have killed 2,000 Syrian soldiers over the past year.
pfd/ipj (Reuters, AFP)