International mediator Kofi Annan
said on Saturday the Syrian government and opposition must cooperate with a
plan for a transitional government, which he hoped would bring real results
within a year.
He said a "strong transformational
wind" was blowing and could not be resisted for long. He said the new
government would be formed by discussion, negotiation and mutual consent, and
the "Action Group" on Syria that met in Geneva on Saturday would reconvene
For her part, U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly endorsed a new international plan
for a political transition in Syria, saying it would send a clear message to
President Bashar al-Assad that he must step down.
"Assad will still have to go," Clinton told a news
conference after international mediator Kofi Annan announced that major powers
including Russia and the United States had reached a deal that calls for a
transitional unity government to take power in Syria.
"What we have done here is to strip away the fiction that
he and those with blood on their hands can stay in power," Clinton said.
Russia's Lavrov delighted at
Syria meeting outcome
In turn, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov said he was "delighted" at the outcome of crisis talks on
Syria held in Geneva on Saturday and that the document agreed on did not imply
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step down.
Lavrov told a news conference there were
no preconditions to Syria's transition process and no attempt to exclude any
group from a proposed national unity government. The key point was that the
agreement did not attempt to impose a process on Syria, he said.
Annan says he expects Assad to cooperate
with Syria plan
Russia, the U.S. and other major powers have begun on Saturday closed-door talks in Geneva in order to find a political solution for Syria and ending 16 months of brutal violence.
International envoy Kofi Annan invited the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. along with other envoys for Europe, the Middle East, China, the Arab League and representatives of three Arab countries.
In his opening remarks, Annan warned of an international crisis of grave severity that now looms and
threatens regional spillover. He called on world powers to reach unity on Syria to allow
for a peaceful solution to conflict adding that world powers must agree on guidelines
and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets legitimate
aspirations of the Syrian people.
For his part British Foreign Minister William Hague called for Security Council to
negotiate resolution next week to set out sanctions on Syria. “None of us seek military
action” he said.
He continued that Syrian
President and closest associates cannot lead transition process in Syria, adding that accountability for criminal
acts must be part of transition process in Syria. Hague added that UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon
warned Geneva talks that if Syria crisis is
not resolved, he would need to withdraw UN observers.
High Representative of the European Union Catherine Ashton:" We are hopeful we are going yo rach a good solution."
Russia's determination to preserve its last remaining ally in the Middle East collides head-on with U.S. and other Western powers' desire to replace Syrian President Bashar Assad with a democracy.
The negotiating text for the multinational conference calls for establishing a transitional government of national unity, with full executive powers, that could include members of Assad's government and the opposition and other groups. It would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections.
But the text that would serve as the framework for Annan's peace efforts also would "exclude from government those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardize stability and reconciliation."
For his "Action Group on Syria," U.N.-Arab League envoy Annan also invited Turkey, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and the European Union, along with Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar as heads of three groups within the League of Arab States.
The uprising in Syria since March of last year has killed some 14,000 people. On Friday, Syrian troops shelled a suburb of Damascus, killing an estimated 125 civilians and 60 soldiers.