International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met Tuesday in Damascus with three opposition groups tolerated by the regime, a day after holding talks with President Bashar al-Assad.
Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League’s special envoy to Syria, arrived in the country on Sunday to launch a fresh bid to end the country’s spiraling conflict, which in almost two years has killed more than 44,000 people.
According to AFP news agency, he met mid-morning Tuesday with a delegation of six people led by Hassan Abdel Azim, head of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC), at his Damascus hotel, the correspondent said.
The NCCDC brings together several Arab nationalist, Kurdish, socialist and Marxist groups.
Key among Abdel Azim’s companions in the meeting were Mohammed Abu Qassem of the Tadamun (Solidarity) party and Bassam Takieddin.
With close ties to Moscow, the NCCDC rejects all calls for foreign military intervention in Syria’s conflict. It is not a part of the recently formed National Coalition, which is recognized by dozens of states and organizations as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Brahimi had told reporters on Monday that he and Assad had “exchanged views on the many steps to be taken in the future”.
He said the Syrian crisis was “always worrying”, and expressed hope that “all parties are in favor of a solution that draws Syrian people together.”
Assad described his meeting with Brahimi as “friendly and constructive,” according to state television.
The United States warned late on Monday that the Syrian regime’s days are numbers following a massacre of hundreds of civilians in the bombing of a bakery earlier this week.
Washington condemned the “vicious” attack in which at least 200 people were reported to have been killed in a regime air strike on a bakery in the town of Halfaya, in the central province of Hama, Al Arabiya reported on Sunday.
“Brutal attacks such as these show that this regime has no future in Syria,” acting State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.
“Those that commit atrocities will be held accountable. The United States calls on all parties that continue to assist the regime in executing its war against the Syrian people to end their support,” he added.
The official SANA news agency blamed the bakery killings on an “armed terrorist group” -- the regime term for rebels -- saying “many women and children” had died.
The National Coalition, recognized by many countries and groupings as the legitimate representative of Syrians, blamed Assad’s regime for the “massacre” in Halfaya, saying it “targeted children, women and men who went out to get their scarce daily bread ration”.
More than 44,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the eruption in March 2011 of the uprising that morphed into an armed insurgency when the Assad regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent.
On Monday alone, at least 119 people were killed nationwide, including 38 civilians, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Brahimi, who last visited Syria on October 19, expressed hope “all parties are in favor of a solution that draws Syrian people together”.
“Assad expressed his views on the situation and I told him about my meetings with leaders in the region and outside,” said the veteran Algerian diplomat who took over the position from former U.N. chief Kofi Annan.
Assad said his “government is committed to ensure the success of all efforts aimed at protecting the sovereignty and independence of the country,” state television reported.
As violence raged in flashpoints across Syria, some 1,000 people attended Christmas mass in Damascus, praying for peace to return nearly two years into an uprising that has killed tens of thousands.