Kofi Annan has sent a team to Damascus over the weekend to continue discussions on the proposals he “left on the table” for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Annan said he will return to Damascus if “sufficient progress” has been made.
Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League special envoy, met with Assad two weekends ago when he presented a proposed peace plan asking an end to the violence in the country, unhindered access for humanitarian aid and to start a political dialogue. He received a response from Assad prior to his report to the U.N. Security Council on Friday (March 16).
The response, which Syria labeled “positive,” was to ask Annan to provide the Syrian government “guarantees,” The Washington Post reports. It said Syria will discuss the idea of a neutral monitoring system after the “guarantees” have been met.
But what are these “guarantees?”
First, that the armed opposition will “cease” all aggressions and give up their weapons to the authorities. The government said that when it withdrew all its forces from cities and other urban areas in December in compliance with an Arab League plan, armed groups “used their weapons,” “attacked the population” and disrupted public disorder.
Second, that neighboring countries “control the flow of arms” through their border.
Third, that countries expressing their intention to finance and arm the opposition to “stop doing so.”
As for Annan’s request for a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, which the International Committee of the Red Cross initially called for, the government did not provide any concrete steps forward. It, however, agreed to allow the entry of international media, but with “freedom of movement according to Syrian laws and regulations.”
Asked until when will he wait for Assad’s answer, Annan said time is always an issue in negotiations. He said the important thing is to make sure that the “other side” is engaging “seriously.”
“If you come to the conclusion or make the judgment that it is a waste of time, or one side is playing for time, you draw the consequences and take appropriate action,” Annan said.
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