Damascus ‘Positive’ on UN-Arab Mission After Year of Unrest
CAIRO, March 15 (RIA Novosti) - Damascus is interested in the success of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's mission intended to restore peace in Syria, the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said as the bloody uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad entered its second year on Thursday.
“The success of Kofi Annan's mission is in the interest of Syria; we are positive about it, although this process is not only in the hands of the Syrian government,” Makdissi said in an interview with the Egyptian MENA news agency published on Thursday.
Former UN Secretary General Annan travelled to Syria over the weekend to try to persuade Assad to stop his crackdown on protesters, allow humanitarian aide to be supplied to violence-hit areas in Syria and launch a dialogue with opposition forces.
He left Damascus on Sunday without a deal, but said he had offered Assad “concrete proposals” and felt optimistic about his mission.
According to UN estimates, more than 7,500 people have lost their lives since anti-government protests broke out in Syria last March, instigated by popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.
Thursday marked one year since a wave of simultaneous demonstrations against Assad’s authoritarian rule took place in major cities across Syria on March 15, 2011.
As Syrian troops have tightened their siege of opposition strongholds, thousands of Assad supporters joined demonstrations in the Syrian capital on Thursday to mark what they called a “year-old conspiracy” against their country. Rallies to commemorate the anniversary of the uprising have been planned across Syria on Thursday.
The unrest forced thousands of people to flee their homes. The Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday the number of Syrian refugees who had escaped to Turkey reached 14,700 on Thursday, adding that some 1,000 of them arrived in the country over the past 24 hours.
He also said that Turkey has hosted seven Syrian generals who defected from the Assad army.
On Wednesday, Syrian government forces began shelling the southern city of Deraa, the birthplace of the protest movement, media reports said. Also on Wednesday, Syrian troops overrun the rebel-held north-western city of Idlib after days of clashes with opposition fighters.
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