Annan, Clinton to hold Syria talks on Friday
AFP BEIRUT/ WASHINGTON UN envoy Kofi Annan will hold talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Friday as the international community tries to find a way to end the bloodshed in Syria, a US official said.
“There’s actually quite a lot going on with Syria this week in terms of international efforts,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said on Monday, as he dismissed a weekend speech by Syrian President Bashar al Assad as “out of touch with reality.” Clinton will attend a meeting in Istanbul on Thursday to discuss the unrelenting violence in Syria which has dragged on since March 2011, and will then meet with Annan in Washington on Friday.
It was not yet clear whether Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, would also meet with US President Barack Obama. Annan has demanded a “serious review” of the deadlocked efforts to end the Syria violence, and was also to discuss the crisis at the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly on Thursday. “The fact of the matter is... the international community needs to come together and unify around the idea that a political transition must happen sooner rather than later in Syria,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
“We support the Annan plan and we have even though we’ve remained extremely skeptical, with good reason, about Assad’s willingness to comply with it.” Seeking to shore up the plan, Clinton spoke on Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “about bringing more pressure to bear on Assad, on the regime to comply with all six aspects or components of the Annan plan, including a democratic or political transition,” Toner told journalists.
She told her Russian counterpart that Moscow, a key ally of Syria, had a “very significant role to play in trying to persuade Assad, using their influence..
that the Annan plan offers the best way forward.” Toner also said that a sanctions group, led by Washington, was to meet this week to look at ways to “tighten, strengthen, better coordinate sanctions” on the Syrian regime.
“But that’s not where we’re stopping. We’re obviously going to continue our work both within the UN Security Council and with the Friends of the Syrian People to continue the political and economic pressure,” he said.
“So, you know, this is a multi-front battle, if you will, to keep pressure up on Assad.” Meanwhile, in a related development, clashes between troops and rebels in Syria’s western Latakia province killed 15 soldiers on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, bringing the day’s death toll to at least 34.
“Fifteen soldiers were killed and dozens wounded, while three opposition fighters also died in continuing clashes in several villages of Al-Heffa region in Latakia,” the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman said. Two civilians were also killed in the province.
The clashes took place in the villages of Bakas, Shirkak, Babna, Al-Jankil, and Al-Dafil in the Al-Heffa region, while troops stormed the town of Al- Heffa itself, according to Abdel Rahman. State news agency SANA reported that “armed terrorist groups attacked citizens and security forces on Tuesday in Al-Heffa and tried to sabotage public and private institutions after the destruction of two ambulances used by medics in the city.”