Friday, August 03, 2012

Kofi Annan quits Syrian 'mission impossible', blames UNSC divisions

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday quit as peace envoy for Syria, describing his task as impossible and leaving further diplomatic efforts dead in the water.

Failed mission

The Nobel laureate initially managed to rally support for his six-point plan from Syria, Russia and the West. But despite the presence of UN observers on the ground, the violence has escalated into a full-blown civil war.

Thousands of people have died since the Syrian government said it would accept Kofi Annan's plan in March. More accounts of mass executions emerged Thursday, with 77 people reported killed in the Damascus suburbs of Yalda and Jdeidet Artouz as the regime boasted that it had killed and arrested dozens of militants.

"When the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger-pointing and name calling in the Security Council," Annan said at a press conference in Geneva. "It is impossible for me or anyone to compel the Syrian government and also the opposition to take the steps to bring about the political process."

"As an envoy, I can't want peace more than the protagonists, more than Security Council or the international community, for that matter."

The current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was "with deep regret" that he announced Kofi Annan would not renew his mandate when it expires at the end of August [UN statement].

Mixed reaction

There has been mixed responses from around the world. The Syrian foreign ministry expressed regret at the announcement, state TV reported. Meanwhile the US administration put the blame firmly on Russia and China for Annan's departure. Annan's resignation "highlights the failure" of Russia and China "to support meaningful resolutions against Assad that would have held Assad accountable," a White House spokesman Jay Carney said aboard Air Force One.

"President Assad, despite his promise to abide by the Kofi Annan plan, continues to brutally murder his own people," Carney added.

The Russians appeared to rebuke Carney's remarks saying they had "strongly supported" Annan's efforts. Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN ambassador, was quick to react, suggesting to reporters outside the Security Council in New York that Moscow was disappointed that Annan was bowing out.

"We understand that it's his decision," Churkin told reporters. "We regret that he chose to do so. We have supported very strongly Kofi Annan's efforts."

"He has another month to go, and I hope this month is going to be used as effectively as possible under these very difficult circumstances."

Such remarks were sideswiped by US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice who thanked Annan for his "dedication, service and determined efforts", but said those who had blocked UN resolutions had thwarted his efforts for peace.

"Those who blocked #UNSC from heeding Annan's calls for consequences for non-compliance with prior resolutions made his mission impossible," Rice tweeted, a clear criticism of both Russia and China who have vetoed resolution after resolution.

Meanwhile China later said they "regretted" but "understood" Kofi Annan's decision. "We understand the difficulties Mr. Annan has encountered in negotiation work and we respect his decision," spokesman Hong Lei said. "China is open to any proposal that can help politically solve the Syrian issue, and China supports the United Nations to continue to play an important role in achieving the resolution," Hong added [Xinhua]


There had been signs that Annan might quit his post some weeks ago as he expressed his frustrations over Russia's intransigence and what he called west's "destructive competition". In an interview with the the Guardian Annan issued a blunt warning that Syria faced a spreading civil war and risked s spillover of the conflict unless Russia, the west and Arab states ended their "destructive competition" to force a ceasefire and launch a political process that saw President Bashar al-Assad step down.

There is no apparent end in sight in what is becoming an ever more bloody and brutal conflict. Atrocities appear to now be committed by both sides with recent footage release apparently showing members of the so-called Free Syrian Army summarily executing soldiers loyal to President Assad.

The risk of the violence spreading into neighbouring states is all too real, and could ignite a powder keg in the region. In a parting note published by the Financial Times, Annan called on Russia, China and Iran to make concerted efforts in persuading Syria's leadership to change course and embrace a political transition, realising the current government has lost all legitimacy.

"Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity. But this requires courage and leadership, most of all from the permanent members of the Security Council"

Other reports: BBC / Sky / CNN / France 24 / Russia Today / Al Jazeera / Press TV / CNC XinhuaTelegraph / Guardian / Independent / Daily Mail / Xinhua /

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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