x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Annan says arming rebels in Syria would be 'disastrous'

Mr Annan said the Syrian government had assured him it will respect tomorrow's ceasefire with rebel forces as fresh violence erupted in Syria.

Kofi Annan, left, said he was assured by the Syrian government it would honour a ceasefire scheduled for Thursday during a press conference in Tehran with the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi.
Kofi Annan, left, said he was assured by the Syrian government it would honour a ceasefire scheduled for Thursday during a press conference in Tehran with the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi.

TEHRAN // The UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said it would be "disastrous" if rebels fighting the Syrian regime were to be armed, as proposed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

"I've always said the militarisation of the conflict will be disastrous," Mr Annan told a news conference today in Tehran during a visit to Iran, Syria's chief ally in the Middle East.

Mr Annan, who drew up a six-point plan to end combat in Syria, said a new conflict could not be tolerated in the Middle East.

The envoy said he believed his plan could still be salvaged and be fully implemented by a deadline at 6am Damascus time tomorrow if both the Syrian regime and rebels respected its terms.

Fresh violence erupted in different parts of Syria early today, activists reported.

The Local Coordination Committees said there is shelling of several rebel-held neighbourhoods in the central city of Homs.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "tens of army vehicles" are deploying in the southern town of Maaraba amid intense shooting.

The violence came as Mr Annan said the Syrian government had assured him it will respect tomorrow's ceasefire with rebel forces.

"I have received government assurances they will respect the ceasefire. If everyone respects it I think by 6 in the morning on Thursday we shall see improved conditions on the ground," he said. Mr Annan said it was important that regional governments work with Syria to resolve the crisis, adding that Iran could be part of the solution.

Tehran has voiced its support for Annan's six-point plan as long as it does not call for the removal of Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian president.

Speaking alongside Mr Annan, the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said: "The opportunity must be given to the Syrian government to make changes under the leadership of Bashar Al Assad."

* With additional reporting by Reuters and Associated Press