Special peace envoy Kofi Annan is set to hold a second round of talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian president has blamed "armed terrorist groups" for the lack of progress.
The United Nations and Arab League special envoy, Kofi Annan, was to set hold a second meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday, after the first day of talks made little progress toward a resolution to the conflict that has claimed thousands of lives over the past year.
A UN statement on Saturday said Kofi Annan had "put several proposals on the table regarding stopping the violence and the killing, access for humanitarian agencies and the ICRC, release of detainees and the start of an inclusive political dialogue."
The statement described the talks as "candid and comprehensive" but provided no details about the proposals that the former UN secretary-general had made. Annan himself declined to comment following two hours of talks with Assad earlier on Saturday.
For his part, Assad appeared to be unmoved by the proposals.
"No political dialogue or political activity can succeed while there are armed terrorist groups operating and spreading chaos and instability," Syria's state news agency quoted Assad as saying.
At the same time, though, Assad said Syria would back "any honest effort to find a solution to the events it is witnessing."
The two men were to meet again on Sunday before Annan leaves Damascus for Qatar.
Lavrov in Cairo
The issue of Syria was also discussed at a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday, which was attended by Russia's top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov.
The Russian foreign minister was forced to defend Moscow's use of its veto to block UN Security Council resolutions aimed at ending the violence in Syria.
Moscow was "not protecting any regime. The most urgent task is to end all violence," Lavrov said.
He and his Arab counterparts did manage to agree on a five-point plan, including the need to end the violence "from any source," and introduce objective monitoring. It also calls for unhindered access for humanitarian aid deliveries, supports political dialogue between the government and the opposition, but rejects all foreign intervention.
Assault on Idlib
Despite the diplomatic efforts to end the violence, the fighting continued unabated on Saturday. Government troops are reported to have launched an assault on the rebel stronghold of Idlib.
"Regime forces have just stormed into Idlib with tanks and heavy shelling is now taking place," an activist told the Reuters news agency by telephone.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 rebels, seven soldiers and four civilians had been killed in the latest fighting. A ban on most foreign journalists from reporting in Syria makes such figures impossible to verify.
The United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 people have been killed since protests against Assad's regime began in March 2011.
pfd, slk/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)