- Kofi Annan - Syria - United Nations - unrest
Mission headed to Syria to push peace proposals, Annan says
Joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan (left) said Friday that a team arriving in Damascus this weekend will look at creating a monitoring mission and push peace proposals despite a "disappointing" response from President Bashar al-Assad (right).
AP - U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan warned Friday the Syria conflict can have a “serious impact” regionally if not handled properly, saying he plans to return to the nation after an advance team makes preparations.
The Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body, has been deeply divided over Syria. Moscow and Beijing have protected President Bashar Assad’s government from U.N. sanctions over its yearlong crackdown on protesters, which has left more than 8,000 people dead.
“The first objective is for all of us to end the violence and human rights abuses and the killings and get unimpeded access for humanitarian access to the needy, and of course the all-important issue of political process that will lead to a democratic Syria, fulfilling the aspirations of the Syrian people,” Annan said.
Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general who is the joint U.N. and Arab League special envoy, spoke after providing a confidential briefing by video link to the Security Council in New York.
“I encouraged the council to speak with one voice as we try to resolve the crisis in Syria,” he told reporters at the U.N.’s European headquarters in Geneva. “There have been some differences, but that is also normal.”
Russia and China, both permanent members of the Security Council, have blocked action against Syrian Assad’s regime. They have vetoed two U.S. and European-backed Security Council resolutions that would have condemned Assad’s bloody crackdown, saying they were unbalanced and demanded that only the government stop attacks, not the opposition. Moscow, a longtime Syrian ally, has also accused Western powers of fueling the conflict by backing the rebels.
“I told the Security Council we were talking with the Syrians and the talking continues,” Annan told reporters in Geneva. “As long as you believe the discussions and the talks you are having are meaningful, I think you should continue.”
But resolving the crisis in “Syria will be much more complex” than Libya, he said.
“If you come to the conclusion or make the judgement that it’s a waste of time -- or one side is playing for time -- you draw the consequences and take appropriate action,” he added.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry told the Security Council on Friday that Damascus will continue its crackdown, but also will cooperate with Annan, fueling fears among humanitarian groups that Assad merely wants more time to stamp out the opposition.
In Moscow, Russia said Friday it has encouraged the Syrian government to cooperate with Annan as he tried to help end the violence and urged the West to do the same with the Syrian rebels.
Annan met twice with Assad last weekend and made proposals to end the bloodshed.
While in Syria, Annan recounted, he talked not only with Assad and the foreign minister, but also with opposition, religious and civil society leaders along with business people and the head of the Syrian National Council in Ankara, Turkey.
He said the opposition figures he met were keen to get talks going to resolve differences politically and peacefully, but were “impatient” because the killings have continued and they are frustrated, angry and want to see results.
“The region is extremely concerned about developments in Syria. Their concern goes beyond Syria itself, because the crisis can have serious impact for the whole region if it’s not handled effectively. I’m doing my best with the support of everyone to try and find a peaceful solution,” he said.
Annan said his team would prepare the way for him to return, though he did not set an exact date. “I will be sending a team in this weekend to pursue the discussions and the proposals we left on the table. And at the appropriate time, when I deem sufficient progress has been made, I shall be prepared to go back to the region,” he said.
His spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, told The Associated Press that Annan has decided to send a mission to Damascus as soon as possible to discuss practical steps to implement his proposals including an immediate cessation of the violence and ways to monitor a ceasefire.
Diplomats said Annan told the council that the stronger and more unified its message, the better the chances of shifting the dynamics of the conflict. They spoke on condition of anonymity because Annan’s briefing was private.
Annan said Syria’s response to his proposals has been disappointing so far, which is why the technical team will be continuing talks in Damascus.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the current council president, refused to discuss details of Annan’s briefing but said the council strongly supported his mission and was discussing a possible resolution to support it.