International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Syria yesterday on his first visit to the strife-torn country since his appointment two weeks ago.
"During his visit to Syria, Mr Brahimi will hold talks with the government and with representatives of the Syrian opposition and civil society," his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said. He had previously announced that the veteran diplomat would meet President Bashar al-Assad.
Today he will meet members of the Syrian opposition tolerated by the regime and hold talks with Assad tomorrow.
Brahimi highlighted to Arab League envoys in Cairo this week that he knows he faces an uphill struggle, with no sign of any lull in the violence that is ravaging the country.
He told envoys of the Cairo-based league that "he was approaching the crisis in Syria with his eyes open and the full knowledge that it was an extremely difficult task", a UN spokeswoman said.
In Brussels yesterday, Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi reiterated that Assad must step down as "a president that kills his own people is not acceptable".
And British Foreign Secretary William Hague, visiting Iraq, said the regime in Damascus was doomed.
"We believe that the Assad regime is doomed, that it is not possible for it to survive, and so many crimes [have been] committed that it should not survive," Hague said at a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
On the ground yesterday, Syrian rebels advanced into the contested central Midan district of the commercial capital Aleppo, witnesses and military sources said, as combat rocked several city neighbourhoods.