The escalating conflict in Syria poses a global danger, Lakhdar Brahimi, UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, has said after talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
Saturday’s meeting in the Syrian capital 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”.
“We discussed the Syrian crisis and I repeat, this crisis is very dangerous,” Brahimi said after the hourlong meeting at the presidential palace.
“This crisis is deteriorating and represents a danger to the Syrian people, to the region, and to the whole world.”
After the meeting, Brahimi’s spokesperson Ahmad Fawzi told Al Jazeera by phone that the envoy had a “serious” and “comprehensive” discussion of the crisis with the Syrian President.
Fawzi said that Brahimi was still in “listening mode” adding that he has “just taken on this very complex and complicated mission.”
“They did discuss the fact that there would have to be movement on two tracks: the ending of the violence and the beginning of a political process.”
Activists say more than 27,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old conflict between Assad’s forces and the rebels determined to overthrow him.
Assad’s forces and the opposition rebels 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 fighter jets swooping over the capital shortly after 7am, local time (04:00 GMT) on Saturday.
Hassan Abdul-Azeem, a spokesman for Syria’s opposition National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change, said a delegation from the group had met Brahimi on Friday to discuss how to resolve the crisis.
“We support Mr Brahimi … and we will co-operate with him because the violence has reached [unprecedented] levels and the Syrian people are suffering from the killings, destruction and displacement,” he said.
Abdul-Azeem’s bloc, which is tolerated by the Syrian government, includes Arab nationalists, Kurds and socialists.
“We came to Syria for meetings with our Syrian brothers because there is a big crisis. I think it is getting worse,” Brahimi was quoted as saying by Syria’s official SANA news agency.
Brahimi met Walid Muallem, Syrian foreign minister, after arriving in the country on Thursday.
Muallem assured Brahimi of “Syria’s full co-operation” and stressed that any initiative must be based on “the interests of the Syrian people and their freedom of choice without foreign intervention”, SANA reported.
The diplomatic developments came as the army In neighbouring Lebanon the seized a lorry loaded with weapons believed to be heading to Syria.
The cache included light arms, hand grenades, rockets, and communication devices, the army said on Friday.
Also in Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI started a weekend visit with a call for an end to arms imports to Syria.
“Arms imports must stop once and for all, because without arms imports, war cannot continue,” he said.