Sunday, January 21, 2018

U.N. envoy presses Syrian peace plan with Iran, Iraq

BAGHDAD — The U.N.'s special envoy on the Syrian crisis sought to build support for his peace efforts Tuesday with the leaders of Iran and Iraq, saying President Bashar Assad has agreed to a plan to quell the bloodshed in the most violent areas of Syria and then expand the operation to the whole country.

Top diplomat Kofi Annan said at a news conference in Iran that the plan still must be presented to the Syrian opposition. But he said his talks with Assad a day earlier focused on a new approach to ending the violence, which activists say has killed more than 17,000 people since March 2011.

"(Assad) made a suggestion of building an approach from the ground up in some of the districts where we have extreme violence — to try and contain the violence in those districts and, step by step, build up and end the violence across the country," Annan told reporters in Tehran, his first step on a tour of Syria's allies. He did not elaborate on the plan.

Annan later visited Iraq and met Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss ways to end the fighting.

"I think we've all watched the tragic situation in Syria, the killings, the suffering of the people," Annan said in Baghdad. "And everyone I've spoken to shares the concerns and the needs for us to stop the killing."

The conflict in Syria has defied every international attempt to bring peace, and there was no sign that the plan Annan described Tuesday will be a breakthrough. Although the Assad government's crackdown has turned the Syrian president into an international pariah, he still has the support of strong allies such as Russia, Iran and China.

There is little support for military intervention of the type that helped bring down Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, and several rounds of sanctions and other attempts to isolate Assad have done little to stop the bloodshed.

Still, Annan's latest efforts to reach out to Syrian allies suggest he sees them as integral to solving the crisis.

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