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Annan urges Syria opposition to cooperate for solution

March 08, 2012

Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations. — Photo by AP

CAIRO: United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, urged the Syrian opposition on Thursday to cooperate to resolve the conflict that has left thousands dead in the past year.

Former UN chief Annan, speaking to reporters in Cairo, urged “the Syrian opposition to come together to work with us to find a solution that will respect the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Annan has been holding talks in the Egyptian capital ahead of a trip to Damascus on Friday.

“We will do whatever we can to urge and press the cessation of hostilities and an end to the killing and violence,” he said, ahead of talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr.

“But of course the ultimate solution lies in the political settlement,” Annan said.

For his part, Amr warned of consequences for the entire Middle East, should the crisis spiral, his spokesman said.

Amr said that an “explosion” of the situation “would not only have internal consequences but will spread to the whole region,” Amr Roshdy told reporters.

On Wednesday, Amr warned that arming rebel fighters in Syria, most of them army defectors, would “lead to an escalation in the military conflict and spark a civil war.”

Some Arab countries, such as Qatar and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, have spoken in favour of arming the rebels.

The opposition Syrian National Council has said it wants to organise arms deliveries to the rebels and announced the formation of a “military bureau” to coordinate and serve as a conduit for weapons supplies from abroad.

Annan and his deputy, former Palestinian foreign minister Nasser al-Qudwa, are due to travel to Syria on Friday. Their trip was initially scheduled for Saturday.

Nearly 8,500 people have been killed in the almost year-long crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says, and world pressure has been growing for a new push to end the bloodshed.

Annan and Qudwa are acting under a UN General Assembly mandate as well as Arab League resolutions on the crisis.

A UN General Assembly resolution passed on February 16 demands that Syria “cease all violence and protect its population,” free everyone detained in connection with the unrest, withdraw troops from urban areas and guarantee freedom of demonstration.

It also insists on “full and unhindered access and movement” for currently suspended Arab League observer mission and international news media “to determine the truth about the situation on the ground.”

Damascus has welcomed the visit by Annan and Qudwa.

“Syria welcomes the visit by Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the UN secretary general,” state television said, citing an official it did not identify.