Middle East

Annan holds 'constructive' talks with Syria's Assad

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionKofi Annan: "We discussed the need to end the violence"

UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, has said he has held "very candid and constructive" talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

He told reporters they had "agreed an approach" to end the violence, and he would share this with rebel groups.

The former UN secretary-general later arrived in Iran to discuss the crisis with leaders there.

On Saturday, Mr Annan admitted his plan to find a political solution to the escalating violence had not succeeded.

A ceasefire was supposed to begin in mid-April as part of his six-point peace initiative.

Opposition activists said security forces were shelling parts of the cities of Deir al-Zour, Deraa, Homs, Aleppo and Damascus on Monday. More than 100 people were killed on Sunday, mostly civilians, they added.

'No guarantee'

After his meeting with President Assad, Mr Annan told reporters in the Syrian capital that they had "discussed the need to end the violence, and ways and means of doing so".

"We agreed an approach which I will share with the armed opposition," he added. "I also stressed the importance of moving ahead with a political dialogue, which the president accepts."

"President Assad reassured me of the government's commitment to the six-point plan which, of course, we should move ahead to implement in a much better fashion than has been the situation so far."

A Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad al-Makdisi, echoed Mr Annan's comments, writing on Twitter that the talks had been "constructive and good".

Discussions focused on the implementation of the peace plan, Mr Makdisi added.

Mr Makdisi said both men considered the recent Action Group on Syria meeting in Geneva an important step towards creating an environment for national dialogue and a political solution to the crisis.

The Action Group urged all parties to recommit to a sustained cessation of violence and the immediate implementation of Mr Annan's initiative. It also called for the creation of a transitional government formed on basis of mutual consent, which could include officials serving under President Assad and opposition members.

Mr Annan later flew to Tehran, where he was expected to brief the Iranian government on the outcome of the Action Group meeting, to which it was not invited following objections by the US.

Arriving on Monday night, he told reporters he was there to "to see how we can work together" to find a solution to the conflict.

Image caption Peaceful protests have been continuing in Syria alongside the growing armed conflict

On Saturday, Mr Annan told Le Monde newspaper that it was clear that his plan had not succeeded, adding: "Maybe there is no guarantee that we will succeed."

He said criticism of the international community's failure to negotiate a political solution had too often focused on Russia, which has opposed foreign intervention.

"Russia has influence, but I don't think that events will be determined by Russia alone."

Moscow has continued to supply weapons to Damascus, noting that there are no UN sanctions prohibiting the trade.

On Monday, officials in Moscow said Russia would honour its current contracts with Damascus, but announced that it would not agree to any further arms deals until the situation stabilised.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have called for the arming and financing the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), while the US has said it is providing "non-lethal" aid, such as communications assistance.

'Very good plan'

With his ceasefire in ruins, Mr Annan is now focusing on trying to win agreement on some kind of political transition, says the BBC's Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPresident Bashar al-Assad: "To stay in this position, in this situation, you must have support"

The opposition insists any transition must include Mr Assad's departure from power, something he again ruled out in an interview with German television on Sunday.

"The president shouldn't run away from challenge and we have a national challenge now in Syria," Mr Assad told ARD.

"The president shouldn't escape the situation, but from the other side you can stay as president, stay in this position only when you have the public support."

Mr Assad also insisted that the fight against "terrorism" had to go on, blaming Western and Arab support for the opposition for undermining Mr Annan's initiative.

"The biggest obstacle is that many countries do not even want this plan to succeed so they offer political support and continue to provide the terrorists in Syria with arms and money."