U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on Wednesday pressed President Bashar al-Assad to quickly answer proposals to end Syria's strife ahead of a new diplomatic surge aimed at passing a Security Council resolution on the crisis.
Annan, who on Friday will brief the U.N. Security Council on his mission, announced that he has received one response from Assad's government.
The international envoy "has questions and is seeking answers," his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement.
"But given the grave and tragic situation on the ground, everyone must realize that time is of the essence. As he said in the region, this crisis cannot be allowed to drag on," the spokesman added.
Annan met with Assad in Damascus last weekend and said he made "concrete" proposals. He will brief the Security Council on Friday by videoconference from Geneva, diplomats said.
The council is badly divided on the best way to end the year of strife, which the U.N. says has left more than 8,000 dead. But it is waiting to hear how Assad responds to the envoy before resuming talks on a resolution on the crisis, diplomats said.
"No, I would not say I was optimistic" that Assad would end the violence or allow humanitarian access, said a senior diplomat who has been briefed on the answers already sent to Annan. "But we had never expected that there would be a yes or no answer.
"We had always expected there would be obfuscation, there would be delay, there would be questions," the diplomat added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Annan is still center stage and we are waiting to see how that turns out in the next 24-48 hours before we go back to discussing the text," said a senior council diplomat.
Russia and China have blocked two council resolutions on Syria and have raised objections to a new U.S.-drafted resolution which has been under discussion for the past month.
But diplomats from several council countries said that once Annan has given his report, there could be moves for a Security Council vote as early as next week on a new resolution.
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