U.N.-Arab League Syria envoy Kofi Annan will meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday during a peace mission to the country where pro-democracy protests have deteriorated into bloody turmoil, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.
Ban told reporters in New York that Annan also plans to meet with the Syrian opposition before leaving the country on Sunday, according to Reuters. Ban said that he held a conference call with Annan and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi earlier on Friday.
“He’s (Annan) going to meet President Assad tomorrow morning in Damascus,” Ban said. “And he’ll be meeting civil society leaders.”
“All three of us (Ban, Annan and al-Arabi) share the same concerns, same priorities and same approaches,” he said. “Our priority is, first of all, all violence must stop, whether by government forces (or) opposition forces.”
“I have very strongly urged Kofi Annan to ensure that there must be an immediate ceasefire,” Ban said, adding that it would be ideal if both the rebels and government forces halted their fighting simultaneously.
If that is not possible, then government forces should stop first and the opposition should follow immediately. After that, Ban said, there should be “inclusive political solutions” found through dialogue.
Annan was expected to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Cairo on Friday evening, a U.N. spokesman said.
The former U.N. chief was meeting the foreign ministers of several Arab countries in the Egyptian capital and has already met chief diplomats from Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, said spokesman Martin Nesirky, according to AFP.
Annan has been in Cairo since Wednesday ahead of his first trip to Syria, scheduled for Saturday.
Arab foreign ministers will meet with Lavrov in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the situation in Syria.
Russia said on Friday that it opposed an “unbalanced” Washington-backed U.N. draft resolution on Syria because it failed to call for a simultaneous halt in violence by the government and rebels.
Russia and China have previously blocked two U.N. initiatives because they singled out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for blame.
World powers have been under pressure from Moscow to tone down their condemnation of Assad’s regime.