(Reuters) – International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said after talks with President Bashar al-Assad that the escalating Syrian conflict posed a global danger.
“We discussed the Syrian crisis and I repeat, this crisis is very dangerous,” Brahimi told reporters after he met Assad for an hour at the presidential palace.
“This crisis is deteriorating and represents a danger to the Syrian people, to the region, and to the whole world.”
Activists say more than 27,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old conflict between Assad’s forces and the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels determined to overthrow him.
Saturday’s meeting in Damascus was Brahimi’s first with Assad since he replaced Kofi Annan as peace envoy two weeks ago, taking on a mission which the veteran Algerian diplomat described as “nearly impossible”.
Assad’s forces and the outgunned but increasingly powerful rebels seeking his overthrow have ignored appeals to end the fighting, which has continued in most of the country’s main cities, including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Deir al-Zor.
Damascus residents reported hearing heavy overnight bombardment followed by the sound of jet planes swooping over the capital shortly after 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) on Saturday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group monitoring the violence, said 160 people were killed in Syria on Friday, as Brahimi met Russian and Chinese diplomats in Damascus. On Thursday he spoke with the Iranian ambassador.
Russia, Iran and China are supporting Assad’s government and Moscow and Beijing have three times blocked Western-backed attempts in the U.N. Security Council to criticise and threaten sanctions against Damascus.
“I believe that the president realises more than me the dimensions and the danger of this crisis,” Brahimi said.
Brahimi said Assad and his officials had pledged to support his work, adding that he would return to the region soon after talks in New York with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Syria’s U.N. envoy Bashar Ja’afari said earlier this month Damascus was “open-minded and fully committed to the mission of Mr Brahimi in his endeavours to put an end to violence and find a Syrian-led political solution to the crisis”.
(Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Rosalind Russell)