Annan in Iran and Iraq as opposition insists on Assad departure before any negotiations
The international envoy to Syria Kofi Annan on Tuesday held talks in Iran, a close ally of Damascus, within his efforts to put an end to the Syrian crisis, before heading to Baghdad. This visit to Iran comes one day after a meeting in Damascus between Mr. Annan and President Bashar al-Assad, who agreed a new "approach" towards the crisis, which killed more than 17,000 people in nearly 16 months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Mr. Annan then went to Iraq for talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This is the first time the former UN chief goes to Iraq since he took office as the UN International and Arab League envoy to Syria.
Despite the meetings and statements, the violence across the country has been continuing, leaving at least 13 dead Tuesday. "We have lots of injured but there are no doctors with the exception of two dentists. We can do nothing to help the wounded, it's tragic," said an activist in Rastane, a rebel town pounded relentlessly.
Meanwhile, Russia, a key player on the Syrian issue that has so far refused to condemn the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, has called for another meeting of the "Action Group" on Syria. The last meeting of this group in Geneva in late June called for a transition process providing for the formation of a government with representatives of the regime and the opposition, but with no mention over the departure of Assad. But the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition coalition, expressed on Tuesday its total rejection for any negotiations on a transition before the departure of Assad, an issue discussed during the recent visit of the SNC chief Abdel Basset Saida in Moscow.