The United Nations envoy tasked with brokering an end to Syria’s civil war is due to meet president Bashar Assad today.
Lakhdar Brahimi drove to the presidential palace today with Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad.
Mr Brahimi has not spoken publicly since arriving in Damascus yesterday for his two-day visit, and it is unclear what new ideas he could present to try to halt the violence.
Anti-regime activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed since March last year, but neither Assad’s regime nor the rebels seeking to topple him appear interested in negotiating a solution.
Mr Brahimi’s visit comes after a government air strike yesterday on a bakery in a rebel-held town in central Syria killed more than 60 people, according to activists.
The strike on the town of Halfaya appeared to be the government response to a newly announced rebel offensive seeking to drive the Syrian army from a constellation of towns and villages north of the central city of Hama.
Halfaya was the first of the area’s towns to be “liberated” by rebel fighters, and activists saw today’s attack as payback.
The total death toll remained unclear, but the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 60 people were killed. That number was expected to rise because 50 people wounded in the strike were in critical condition.
In a news conference yesterday, Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi repeated the Syrian government’s line that it is fighting terrorist groups backed by foreign powers who seek to destroy Syria.
Mr Al-Zoubi said the government is willing to engage in dialogue but claimed the other side is not.
Rebel groups refuse to talk to Mr Assad, saying too many people have died for him to be considered part of the solution.