The Russian president and UN special envoy Kofi Annan are set to hold talks on the crisis in Syria on Tuesday. Observers have visited the Syrian village where regime forces are said to have killed scores of people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with United Nations special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the conflict in Syria, the Kremlin said in a statement on Sunday. The meeting comes amid growing pressure on Russia to finally back the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Kremlin announced that the UN-Arab League envoy would arrive in Moscow on Monday and meet with Putin on Tuesday for talks in which "Russia will underscore its support of Kofi Annan's peace plan."
It is hoped the meeting between the two will give a diplomatic boost to Annan's tattered peace plan for the crisis.
"During the course of the upcoming meeting, the plan is to ensure Russia's support for Annan's peace plan for the politico-democratic regulation of the crisis in Syria," the statement said.
"It is the Russian side's understanding that this plan is the only viable platform to the solution of Syria's internal problems," it added.
Annan was due to hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after first visiting China, a country that along with Russia has vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning Assad's regime.
The special envoy's trip to Moscow will be his second since he won support from former president Dmitry Medvedev for his first proposed peace initiative.
Annan met with the Syrian leader in Damascus on July 9 for what he called "constructive" talks that focused on a new political approach to ending the violence that observers say has claimed more than 17,000 lives.
UN spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh confirmed reports that a group of observers had entered Tremseh with a convoy of about a dozen vehicles after being informed of a cease-fire on Friday.
The UN's observers said that the attack appeared to have targeted the homes of rebels, conflicting with reports that the attack was entirely indiscriminate.
"A wide range of weapons were used, including artillery, mortars and small arms," Ghosheh said in a statement.
"The attack on Tremseh appeared targeted at specific groups and houses, mainly of army defectors and activists. There were pools of blood and blood spatters in rooms of several homes together with bullet cases."
The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told the AFP news agency that the Tremseh killings "might be the biggest massacre committed in Syria since the start of the revolution" in March 2011. If confirmed, the toll would exceed that of a May 25 massacre at Houla, when militia and government forces were accused of killing at least 108 people.
A spokesman for Syria's military said the army killed "many terrorists" in a "special operation ... targeting armed terrorist groups and their leadership hide-outs." The spokesman said that the pro-Assad forces had not killed any civilians.
Tremseh, population 7,000, is a mainly Sunni Muslim village lying near al Qubeir. Opposition groups say that at least 55 people had been already been killed earlier this month by Assad's forces and paramilitaries.
In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a meeting of his Justice and Development Party that "this inhuman massacre, this attempted genocide, are just early signs pointing to the demise of this regime." He added that "all dictators are cowards ... Sooner or later, these cruel despots will go and the people will want a settling of accounts."
Turkey's ties with its neighbor Syria have disintegrated during the uprising, with Erdogan consistently among Assad's harshest critics - even before the downing of a Turkish warplane last month.
Pro-Assad forces reportedly killed up to 28 people around the country on Saturday. Shelling and fighting were reported in the central province of Homs. Khirbet Ghazaleh, a rebel stronghold in the southern province of Daraa, was said to be under siege by hundreds of government troops backed by helicopter gunships and armored vehicles.
Severe restrictions placed on journalists have made it virtually impossible to independently confirm these and other casualty figures being reported in the country.
jlw, mkg/tj (AFP, dpa, AP)