United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has met with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, amid international diplomatic efforts to end the year-long violence in Syria.
State television said the talks were held in a positive
atmosphere, without giving details.
Al-Assad told Annan that Damascus was ready to
"render successful any sincere effort" to solve its crisis, state
news agency SANA reported.
"But no political dialogue or process will succeed
as long as there are armed terrorist groups working to spread chaos and
destabilise the country," SANA quoted al-Assad as saying in talks with
Annan in Damascus.
Annan was later due to meet Foreign Minister Walid
al-Moallem, the United Nations spokesman in Damascus Khaled al-Masri said.
He is also expected to meet representatives from civil
Annan's visit, the first since he was named special envoy
for the Syrian conflict, came as government forces shelled areas in the
northern province of Idlib, according to activists, who said 12 people were
They said government forces were also conducting an
operation in the southern province of Daraa to prevent rebels and dissidents
from fleeing across the border into Jordan.
In Cairo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called
for an immediate halt to the violence, saying Russia would work with all
parties demanding reform in the country.
Lavrov called on armed opposition groups to withdraw from
the cities and on the Syrian government to agree to a mechanism to allow
Russia, a key Syria ally, was not trying to protect
al-Assad's regime but to "promote a peaceful resolution," he said,
warning against outside interference in Syria's domestic affairs.
Last month, Russia and China vetoed a UN draft resolution
based on an Arab League plan calling for al-Assad to step down.
In response to Lavrov's remarks, Qatari Foreign Minister
Hamad bin Jassim said: "We will not accept a mere halt to the violence.
People have been killed. This is not enough."
"There are no armed gangs in Syria, these groups are
defending themselves," Jassim said.
Sheikh Hamad, the head of the Arab committee on Syria,
demanded that those responsible for killing civilians be held accountable,
political prisoners be released, and media and humanitarian assistance be
allowed into the country.
He called for the opposition Syrian National Council to
be recognised as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
"It is time to send Arab and international troops to
Syria," Hamad said.
"The time of silence over what is happening in Syria
is over. The Arab League decisions must be implemented."
News coming out of Syria cannot be independently verified
as the government bars foreign media from the restive areas.
The UN has put the death toll at more than 7500 since the
crackdown on protests began.