UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi met with Syrian president Bashar Al Assad for the first time at the weekend and has admitted he has no plan to end the bloody conflict and called the fighting a threat to world peace.
After fighting on Saturday killed at least 115 people – most of them civilians – clashes on Saturday night and into Sunday morning killed a further 15, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported. The group claims more than 27,000 people have died during the 18-month conflict.
SOHR claims four of the victims were men killed by army operations in the southern Damascus suburb of Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, and another four were casualties of a blast which struck a bus in the Daraa province, as well as a child and a media activist in Aleppo. They also reported fighting had erupted at dawn in the Damascus suburb of Harasta and city of Douma, with explosions and smoke sighted in both areas.
News of the violence comes at a time when Brahimi is frantically trying to resolve the Syrian crisis. In his meeting with Al-Assad on Saturday, Brahimi warned the Syrian president that “the crisis is dangerous and getting worse and it is a threat to the Syrian people, the region and the world.” Brahimi stressed that the solution could “only come from the Syrian people,” who are deeply divided into various political, ethnic and religious factions. Brahimi admitted he had not formulated a plan but said a strategy would be conceived once “all internal, regional and international parties” were heard.
As the fighting in Syria continued unabated, Pope Benedict XVI addressed an estimated crowd of 350,000 in Lebanon, urging Al-Assad and other Middle Eastern leaders to work towards peace. “In a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary,” Benedict said.
In Turkey, the refugee crisis has severely strained their ability to shelter and protect the growing number of people fleeing the violence in Syria. Turkey hosts an estimated 80,000 refugees, according to UN statistics, and sees hundreds of new arrivals daily. The majority of border camps are full. The UN estimates that 60,000 refugees in Turkey are living outside the camps, renting apartments or staying with relatives. The Turkish government is urging refugees to move further inland in order to alleviate the pressure on local municipalities in the south-eastern Hatay border province.
Meanwhile, Al-Assad presented his own solution, which involved foreign countries stopping the supply of arms to the opposition, which he identifies as terrorists. “The success of political action is dependent on putting pressure on the countries that finance and train the terrorists, and which bring weapons into Syria, until they stop doing so,” AFP reported Al-Assad saying, quoted by Syrian state television.