New York Times correspondent Kareem Fahim reports from Beirut:
High-level diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting in Syria yielded mixed results on Saturday as President Bashar al-Assad shut the door on any immediate negotiations with the opposition and escalated a new military assault on the city of Idlib.
Mr. Assad told the United Nations envoy Kofi Annan that such talks would be fruitless as long as “terrorist groups” were operating in the country.
“No political dialogue or political activity can succeed while there are armed terrorist groups operating and spreading chaos and instability,” the state news agency, SANA, quoted Mr. Assad as saying.
Mr. Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, was sent to Damascus by the United Nations and the Arab League to try to negotiate a cease-fire. He was due to meet with Mr. Assad again on Sunday.
In a glimmer of progress, however, an Arab League meeting in Cairo yielded an agreement with Russia that Arab countries hope could lead to a new United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria.
The Arab states dropped their calls for Mr. Assad to hand over power to his deputy, and endorsed a five-point plan that calls for a halt to the violence on both sides and a dialogue between the Syrian government and its opponents, The Associated Press reported.
So not only is Assad ruling out dialog with the opposition (which doesn’t want it anyway) and continuing his murderous assault on opposition strongholds, but Arab states have apparently caved on demands for Assad to step down.
What exactly is “mixed” about that?