The United Nations-Arab League peace envoy has held another meeting with the Syrian president, as part of efforts to end almost two years of bloodshed. No significant progress was reported.
Following his meeting with President Bashar Assad, Lakhdar Brahimi gave no indication that any real progress had been made.
"I told him what I was seeing abroad and about the meetings I had with different officials in the region and abroad," Brahimi told reporters at the Damascus hotel where he was staying.
"The situation in Syria still is a reason for worry. We hope that all the sides work toward the solution, as the Syrian people want," Brahimi added.
At the same time, though, he expressed the hope that "all parties are in favor of a solution that draws Syrian people together."
The only comment from President Assad came in a statement broadcast on state television.
"We want the success of all efforts which will also preserve Syria's integrity and sovereignty," the statement said. It also quoted the president as having told Brahimi that Syria supported "efforts that serve the interests of the Syrian people."
This was the third meeting Brahimi has held with Assad, since he took over as UN-Arab League peace envoy from former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan back in August. He used his last visit to Damascus, in October, to broker a ceasefire between government troops and rebel fighters for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Although both Assad's forces and rebels pledged to abide by the truce, it quickly fell apart.
Their latest talks came a day after at least 60 people were reported killed in an air strike on a bakery in the town of Halfaya in central Hama province. Opposition activists accused the government of carrying out the strike. The official news agency SANA blamed an “armed terrorist group” for the attack. Official Syrian media regularly refer to rebel fighters as terrorists.
In a further sign of the increasing violence in the country, Brahimi was unable to fly into Damascus, travelling instead over land.
pfd/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)