Annan says has Syria's reply, seeking answers to halt crisis

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 14, 2012 7:46 AM

GENEVA (Reuters) - Kofi Annan, joint envoy of the United Nations and Arab League for Syria, has received a response from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to his proposals, but questions remain and he is seeking clarification, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

"The Joint Special Envoy (JSE) for Syria, Kofi Annan, has now received a response from the Syrian authorities. The JSE has questions and is seeking answers," spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in a brief statement issued by Annan's office in Geneva.

"But given the grave and tragic situation on the ground, everyone must realize that time is of the essence. As he said in the region, this crisis cannot be allowed to drag on," he added.

Fawzi has previously said that Annan's concrete proposals, made during weekend talks with Assad in Damascus, included a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and political dialogue.

Heavily armed forces loyal to Assad pounded the southern city of Deraa with anti-aircraft fire on Wednesday, reasserting control over rebel strongholds a year after the start of the Syrian revolt which the United Nations says has killed 8,000.

Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, has also met Syrian opposition figures. He held talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and later the Arab League chief and the foreign ministers of Russia and Saudi Arabia in Cairo.

Fawzi said on Monday that Annan was at the beginning of a process which he felt was on the "right track".

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Toby Chopra)