Sitting with United Nations envoy Kofi Annan today, who was deployed to Damascus to negotiate a cease-fire, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded, “No political dialogue or political activity can succeed while there are armed terrorist groups operating and spreading chaos and instability." The New York Times notes the two are scheduled to continue the talks tomorrow.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo grew contentious as Russian faced off with Saudi and Qatari representatives over the best course of action to take in Syria. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said the country has no interest in "protecting any regimes," but rejected a proposal to arm the rebels, saying they were seeking only to preserve international law.
According to Reuters, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, shot back:
“We must stop issuing hollow resolutions and taking spineless positions.The position of those countries which thwarted the U.N. Security Council resolution and voted against the resolution of the General Assembly gave the Syrian regime a license to extend its brutal practices against the Syrian people.”
Lavrov had his own barbed response to that, saying, “We certainly believe that all outside actors must be extremely careful in addressing problems which your countries are facing.” It was worded so as to lump Saudi Arabia -- who, the Times notes, had direct hand in toppling a democratic uprising in Bahrain -- in with Syria as another country in the Middle East with an abysmal human rights record.
Despite the heated rhetoric, both sides did arrive at a five-point plan to end the violence, the AP reports. But activists within the country say it's already too late:
"If the popular leaders inside Syria have decided that there can be no dialogue with the killer who is attacking us with tanks and rockets, how can [Annan] call for dialogue?" said an activist from the central city of Homs, who gave his name only as Abu Bakr for fear his family would be targeted. "You can't negotiate with someone who has a gun to your head."