Joint UN-Arab League envoy urges Syrian President to embrace reforms

In Syria, Special Envoy Annan holds ‘candid’ talks with President Bashar al-Assad. UN Photo/Reuters/SANA

11 March 2012 – The Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, Kofi Annan, today urged Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to embrace change and reforms that will create the foundation for a democratic society in his country.

“The transformational winds blowing today cannot be long-resisted,” said Mr. Annan in a statement issued after his second day of talks with Mr. Assad in Damascus. “I have urged the President to heed the old African proverb: 'you cannot turn the wind, so turn the sail.' The realistic response is to embrace change and reform.”

The envoy added that the reforms would help build a “peaceful, stable, pluralistic and prosperous society, based on the rule of law and respect for human rights” and that Sunday's discussions focused on putting an immediate stop to the ongoing violence, giving access to humanitarian agencies, and starting a political dialogue.

“I presented a set of concrete proposals which would have a real impact on the situation on the ground and which will help launch a process aimed at putting an end to this crisis,” Mr. Annan said. “I told the President that my main preoccupation is the welfare of the Syrian people – that we should place the interests of the people at the centre of all our efforts.”

During his two-day visit, Mr. Annan also met with representatives of the opposition, civil society, business and religious leaders, before leaving for Doha, Qatar, on Sunday afternoon.

Earlier this week, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, met Syria's Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem, and other government ministers, who agreed to a joint preliminary assessment mission to areas where people urgently need assistance.

Thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising – part of the broader Arab Spring movement across North Africa and the Middle East – began last March.


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