Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has issued a decree stating that parliamentary elections will be held on May 7, even as Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, awaited a response from Damascus on “concrete proposals” he put forward to end the conflict raging in the country. Assad’s move on Tuesday was part of a raft of reforms that he had unveiled to calm a year-long uprising against his rule. His reforms have, however, failed to quell the anti-government protests and not eased in any way the mounting pressure on him to quit. It was unclear whether parliamentary elections were also part of the six-point peace plan presented by Annan during his recent visit to the country.
The former UN chief was in the Turkish capital Ankara on Tuesday, where he met a delegation from the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) . “I am expecting to hear from Syrian authorities today since I left some concrete proposals for them to consider,” Annan told reporters after the meeting. “Once I receive their answer we will know how to react.” Annan arrived in Turkey on Monday after negotiations in Damascus over the weekend aimed at ending the escalating violence that, according to UN estimates, is fast approaching 10,000 (activists argue the number is much higher).
Annan, who met Assad, has not disclosed what those proposals entailed. “Let me say that the killings and the violence must cease,” Annan told reporters. “The Syrian people have gone through a lot and they deserve better,” he said. The envoy said he had had a “useful meeting” with Syrian opposition members who “promised their full co-operation which will be necessary if we are going to succeed”.