Syria-optimist Annan holds Ankara talks

Syria-optimist Annan holds Ankara talks

Syria-optimist Annan holds Ankara talks

Reaching a deal on Syria will be tough, says Annan after talks with al-Assad. REUTERS photo

The U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s visit to Syria ended without a deal, but he still expressed optimism after meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a second day yesterday, ahead of his visit to Ankara scheduled today. 

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be difficult but we must have hope,” the former U.N. chief told reporters in Damascus following his meeting with al-Assad, Reuters reported. “I am optimistic for several reasons,” Annan said, citing a general desire for peace in Syria. “The situation is so bad and so dangerous that none of us can afford to fail.”

Annan said he had left “concrete proposals” with al-Assad for a way out of a conflict that has so far cost thousands of lives. “You have to start by stopping the killing and the misery and the abuses that are going on today, and then give time [for a] political settlement,” he said.

Annan to meet PM Erdoğan

After his talks in Damascus, Annan is expected to visit Qatar over an agreement between the Arab League and Russia on setting up a mechanism for “objective monitoring” in Syria. He will arrive in Turkey tonight to have discussions with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu tomorrow, before leaving the country, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. Annan will convey his observations and discuss grounds to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Syria, sources said.

Annan expressed his will to visit Syrian refugee camps in Hatay, but has not officially confirmed this yet due to his tight schedule, sources said. He is also likely to meet with Syrian opposition representatives in Turkey, a Syrian dissident told the Daily News. 

Khaled Khoja, Turkey representative of the opposition Syrian National Council, told the Daily News that they were firm on asking for an Arab League road map and asked for help from the international community for that. Khoja said the Council would deliver the following conditions to Annan: there should be removal of soldiers from the streets in Syria, the international media and NGOs should be allowed in Syria, al-Assad should hand over office to his deputy, and free elections should take place.

Al-Assad told Annan on March 10 that “terrorists” spreading chaos and instability were blocking any political solution, according to the state news agency SANA. But it added that al-Assad had also told Annan he would help in “any honest effort to find a solution.” 

Syria agrees on relief with Amos

The U.N.-Arab League envoy’s visit comes after U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos left Damascus following a hard-won agreement with the Syrian administration mission to secure relief access to protest centers, such as Syria’s third-largest city Homs.

“Amos was seeking to further cooperation with neighboring countries to Syria on humanitarian access, and we expressed Turkey’s readiness to contribute,” a Turkish diplomat said. Speaking in Ankara on March 9, Amos said a “joint preliminary humanitarian assessment mission” had been agreed in order to provide assistance to people in urgent need of it.

Meanwhile, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said that if there is to be a foreign intervention to Syria to stop the violence, it should be led by Turkey and conducted by neighboring countries, in an interview with Anatolia News Agency. He said such theories were discussed during the Friends of Syria meeting that took place in Tunis recently. At the next meeting, which will be held in Istanbul, practical measures should be discussed, Jebali said.

Sevil Küçükkoşum and İpek Yezdani contributed to this report from Ankara and Istanbul.