New approach ‘agreed’ in Syria crisis
(CNN) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed on “an approach” to ending the bloodshed in Syria, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria said Monday.
Kofi Annan made the statement after meeting with al-Assad in Damascus. He then flew to Tehran for meetings with Iranian leaders about the Syrian conflict.
Annan gave no details of the “approach” al-Assad agreed to but said he vowed to share it with the “armed opposition.”
Annan also said al-Assad “reassured me of the government’s commitment” to Annan’s six-point peace plan, brokered in March, which has done nothing to stop the deadly violence.
Syria said the two men discussed a recent gathering of world leaders in Geneva, Switzerland, aimed at taking steps to bring peace to Syria, “with emphasis on the need for dialogue to be among Syrians and led by Syrians” — a phrase emphasizing Syria’s resistance to foreign intervention of any sort in the conflict.
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Later, Annan announced he was in Tehran “to discuss the situation in Syria” and “to see how we can work together to help settle the situation.”
Iran’s state-run Press TV said he planned to “hold talks with senior officials.”
Even as Annan was in Syria, al-Assad’s regime reported it had conducted live-fire training exercises that simulated a defense against foreign attacks. Throughout the 16-month uprising, the regime has blamed violence on armed terrorist groups involving people from outside Syria.
At least 41 people were killed Monday as the Syrian regime continued its crackdown, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria opposition group. It said at least 60 people were killed in fighting Sunday.
Monday’s violence included house-to-house raids and arrests in Daraa and “very intense shelling” in Homs, with helicopters flying overhead, the LCC said. Eighteen of the deaths were in Idlib, the LCC said.
Gruesome video from the town of Areeha in Idlib showed blood-soaked bodies being dumped onto pickup trucks amid apparent destruction.
A man is heard yelling, “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) and calling the dead “victims of the indiscriminate shelling.”
As with so many other videos that have emerged from the conflict, it was impossible to know the full story behind the images.
At least eight people were killed in shelling in Areeha on Monday, some of them opposition fighters, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another opposition group.
Also Monday, opposition fighters shot at regime members on a road near Areeha, killing all three, including an officer, the observatory said. The regime responded with shelling, the group said.
CNN can not independently confirm reports of violence as Syria has severely limited the access of international journalists.
Syrian state-run TV, meanwhile, broadcast what it called “confessions of four terrorists who admitted to committing murder, rape, abduction and robbery, in addition to smuggling weapons and gunmen, in Homs’ countryside.” The so-called confessions aired Sunday, state-run news agency SANA reported Monday.
It said one of the terrorists “started off by being part of a group that attempted to incite people to protest, and his job was to transport protesters from mosques to squares in the town of al-Qseir.”
And SANA reported that on Monday, authorities “clashed with an armed terrorist group” on the outskirts of Aleppo.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that “the days are numbered” for al-Assad’s regime. Especially with an increased number of defections, “the sand is running out of the hourglass,” she said.
But Annan said that he and the Syrian leader “had a very candid and constructive discussion” and that al-Assad accepts “the importance of moving ahead with a political dialogue.”
The United Nations says more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the violence in Syria. Opposition groups give an even higher figure.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said over the weekend, “The situation has deteriorated significantly, and has become more militarized. Appalling violations of human rights continue to take place. The killings and violence seem to have taken on a very worrying sectarian character. At least 1.5 million people are now in need of urgent humanitarian aid.”
At an emergency meeting last month, foreign ministers from several countries agreed on a need for a transitional government body as a step toward ending the crisis.
Under the proposal, which was approved on June 30 by the U.N. Security Council and the Arab League, al-Assad’s government and the armed opposition would appoint representatives to negotiate the makeup of the transitional government.
The plan allows for al-Assad’s regime to have a role in the transition, though the opposition and some Western and Arab nations are against that.
Asked in an interview that aired Sunday about Annan’s plan for a unity government in Syria, al-Assad said one already exists, pointing to local elections in December in which opposition members won a small number of seats. That they didn’t win more, he told German broadcaster ARD, was because of the voters.
Al-Assad said he has a two-pronged solution to ending the fighting, beginning with combating terrorists.
“The other axis is to make dialogue with the different political components, and at the same time, we have reform,” he said.
The violence erupted in March 2011 when Syrian forces launched a brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, part of the Arab Spring that swept through several countries.
While members of the U.N. Security Council, which includes the United States, have called for an end to the violence and for al-Assad to step aside, efforts to adopt a resolution that would allow for aid to the rebels have been blocked by Russia and China, key Syrian trade partners.
Russia and China are strongly opposed to armed intervention, saying the outcome in Syria should be decided by its people.
The United Nations says more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed. Opposition groups report higher figures.
CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.