Syria has so far brushed off international pressure to halt its violent response to the uprising, bolstered by the resistance of Russia and China to any U.N. resolutions which they fear could be used to justify foreign intervention.
Assad reiterated Tuesday that his country faced “bids to weaken and destabilize it,” but told a visiting Ukrainian politician that Syrians had shown their determination “to pursue reforms in parallel with encountering the terrorism backed by foreign sides,” state news agency SANA reported.
A Chinese envoy, former ambassador to Damascus Li Huaxin, arrived in Syria Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported, and was due to meet Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem Wednesday.
The U.N.-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, will also travel to Damascus Saturday for what would be his first visit since he was named to the post last month.
The appointment of Annan, who has called for all parties to cooperate to help to end the violence in Syria, offers a chance to “rescue fading prospects” for a negotiated solution to the crisis, the International Crisis Group said.
But the Brussels-based conflict resolution group said Annan would have to convince Russia to throw its political and diplomatic weight behind a plan to transfer powers from Assad, ensure an overhaul of Syrian security forces and set in place a process of “transitional justice and national reconciliation.”
It warned that the likely alternative to a political solution involved international steps to arm Syrian rebels, which “could plunge the nation ever deeper into a bloody civil war without prospects for a resolution in the foreseeable future and almost certainly trigger counter-steps by regime allies, thus intensifying the budding proxy war” in Syria.