NEWS: Kofi Annan quits as UN peace envoy to Syria, distributes blame widely
Kofi Annan has thrown in the towel as U.N. peace envoy to Syria. -- "The U.S. and Russia, a key ally of Damascus, exchanged blame for the decision," the Beirut Daily Star reported. -- “Regrettably, the so-called Friends of Syria led by the United States have encouraged the opposition and sought to put pressure only on the Syrian government. That became the reason behind the failure of Annan’s plan,” said Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament. -- But "[t]he U.S. blamed the resignation on the refusal of Russia and China to back U.N. resolutions targeting Assad." -- The Washington Post, in an editorial, followed the U.S. line, placing all the blame on Vladimir Putin and the "evil" Syrian regime. -- But Kofi Annan was more even-handed, placing blame on "Annan blamed the Syrian government's intransigence, the growing militancy of Syrian rebels, and a divided Security Council that failed to forcefully back his effort," though he said the principal obstacle to peace was "the Syrian government's intransigence," the Associated Press reported. -- Diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis are now completely stalled. -- As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon seeks a replacement for Annan, "[a] vote was set for Friday in the U.N. General Assembly on a resolution drafted by Arab League countries. But its call for Assad to step down and for sanctions on Syria was dropped because of resistance from Russia, China and several other nations. While the 193-member General Assembly has no legal mechanism for enforcing a resolution, an overwhelming vote can carry moral and symbolic power." -- Iran, meanwhile, placed blame for Annan's failure on the U.S., Israel, Western powers, Saudi Arabia, and Quatar, Reuters reported. -- "'In general, Western countries and some regional countries did not want Mr. Annan's plan to succeed because in that case, they would not reach their goals,' [Foreign Minister Ali Akbar] Salehi said. . . . Iranian leaders have accused the West of plotting with Arab countries to overthrow the Syrian leadership and bolster the status of Israel in the region through backing extremist militant groups." ...
SYRIA IN FREE FALL AS PEACE ENVOY ANNAN QUITS POST
Daily Star (Beirut)
August 3, 2012
BEIRUT/ALEPPO -- Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has quit his post as international peace envoy to Syria, shooting down hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the increasingly bloody conflict.
Annan denied this resignation meant the Syrian people would be left to fend for themselves as battles raged in Aleppo, killing at least 60 people.
Annan, who’s mission, centered on an April cease-fire that never took hold, blamed “finger-pointing and name-calling” at the U.N. Security Council for his decision to quit, but suggested his successor may have better luck.
“I did not receive all the support that the cause deserved,” Annan told a hastily scheduled news conference in Geneva. He said “continuous finger-pointing and name-calling” in the Security Council had hindered his attempts to implement the so-called six-point peace plan.
“The increasing militarization on the ground and the lack of unanimity in the Security Council fundamentally changed my role,” the former U.N. chief said.
“You have to understand: As an envoy, I can’t want peace more than the protagonists, more than the Security Council or the international community for that matter.
Predicting that Syrian President Bashar Assad would go “sooner or later,” Annan did not rule out his successor having more luck or success, despite his warning there was “no plan B.”
“The world is full of crazy people like me so don’t be surprised if someone else arrives to take it on,” he said, adding that “the international community can do a lot more if they were to work in concert to bring sustained pressure” on the various parties involved.
Diplomatic efforts looked increasingly irrelevant as fighting has intensified in Aleppo, Damascus, and elsewhere. World powers have watched with mounting concern Annan’s mediation effort faltered, and violence that has already claimed an estimated 18,000 lives worsens.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon in New York said that Annan would go at the end of the month, adding the envoy deserved “our profound admiration for the selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments,” Ban said. Talks were under way to find a successor.
Syria expressed “regret” that Annan was going. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said “Syria always proved it was totally engaged in the [Annan] plan,” and accused “countries that seek to destabilize Syria” of having “hindered and continued to hinder” the former U.N. chief’s mission.
The U.S. and Russia, a key ally of Damascus, exchanged blame for the decision. “Kofi Annan is an honorable man and a brilliant diplomat, so I regret that very much,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called the events in Syria a “tragedy.”
Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, blamed the failure of Annan’s plan on the West.
“Regrettably, the so-called Friends of Syria led by the United States have encouraged the opposition and sought to put pressure only on the Syrian government. That became the reason behind the failure of Annan’s plan,” Pushkov said, according to RIA Novosti.
The U.S. blamed the resignation on the refusal of Russia and China to back U.N. resolutions targeting Assad.
“His resignation highlights the failure in the United Nations Security Council of Russia and China to support meaningful resolutions against Assad that would have held Assad accountable for his failure to abide by the Annan plan,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
In further signs of failed diplomacy, Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to hide their differences over Syria during a landmark London meeting before the two leaders watched the Olympic judo together.
On his first visit to Britain for seven years, Putin pledged to work with Cameron to bring Syria’s bloody 17-month conflict to an end.
But after 45 minutes of talks at his Downing Street residence, Cameron acknowledged there was still a gulf between their stances. “There have been some differences in the positions that we’ve taken over the Syrian conflict,” he told reporters.
In New York, the U.N. General Assembly was expected to vote Friday on a resolution drafted by Saudi Arabia, which backs the rebels. Arab countries diluted the resolution, dropping a demand that Assad resign, but nevertheless, Russia said it would not back the resolution because it was “unbalanced” and would encourage rebels to keep fighting.
In Syria, the fight for Aleppo, the latest battlefield, intensified as fighters fought government forces using warplanes and artillery in battles that have lasted 12 days. Heavily armed government troops are trying to drive a few thousand rebel fighters from the city in battle whose outcome could be a turning point in the conflict.
In one of the first indications the rebels are starting to deploy heavy weapons against the Syrian army, rebels turned a captured government tank’s gun on the Menakh airfield 35 km north of the city -- a possible staging post for army reinforcements and a base for war planes and helicopter gunships.
“We hit the airport using a tank that we captured from the Assad army. We attacked the airport a few times but we have decided to retreat at this time,” a rebel fighter named Abu Ali told Reuters.
In Damascus, activists and residents reported the regime had unleashed new raids against opposition fighters, killing at least 35 people, mostly unarmed civilians.
Activists said at least 20 people were killed in the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk after government forces shelled a gathering of people in Jaouneh Street, bordering Tadamon.
“They bombed street, then when people gathered in the place they sent them another shell. There is blood and body parts everywhere,” a resident told the *Daily Star* via Skype.
Around 60 people were killed in Syria Thursday, 43 of them civilians, according to the British-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The lightly armed insurgents are battling a well-equipped army that has overwhelming superiority on paper. But the rebels have managed to capture some tanks and heavy weapons and their ranks are swelled by army defectors. The rebels are consolidating areas they control in Aleppo, attacking police posts and minor military installations. They claim to have seized three police stations this week.
Reuters correspondents heard heavy weapons fire Thursday morning from Salaheddine in southwest Aleppo, a gateway to the city that has been fought over for the past week. Although government forces have made concerted efforts to take Salaheddine, a full-out assault on the city as a whole has yet to take place.
Mobile phone connections have been cut since Wednesday evening, leading to speculation among residents that an increase in military action might be imminent.
Some 2.5 million Aleppo residents are now caught up in battle zones, facing shortages of food, fuel, water, and cooking gas. Thousands have fled and hospitals and makeshift clinics can barely cope with casualties.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said up to three million Syrians are likely to need food and other aid in the next 12 months because the conflict has prevented farmers from harvesting their crops.
Syria meanwhile accused Turkey of backing terrorism by opening its airports and borders to Al-Qaeda to carry out attacks inside Syria.
“The Turkish government plays a fundamental role in supporting terrorism by opening its airport and borders to host Al-Qaeda elements, jihadists, and Salafists,” Syria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement circulated on state television.
-- A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 03, 2012, on page 1.
The Post's View
THE LESSONS OF FAILURE IN SYRIA
August 2, 2012
Kofi Annan turned in his resignation as United Nations special envoy to Syria on Thursday, but his mission was over months ago. It was doomed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was never serious about peace and determined to crush the opposition, and by his chief backer, Russian President Vladimir Putin. The five months that Mr. Annan devoted to talk, with the ill-considered backing of the Obama administration, simply gave Mr. Assad more time to wage war.
The failed mission offers vital lessons for the future. The first is one that Mr. Annan should know well: He learned it in the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Then as now, the leading powers were initially hesitant to use military force. Then as now, U.N. personnel were sent to a battlefield and proved ineffective in the face of evil. After the worst massacre in postwar European history, by Bosnian Serbs at Srebrenica, Mr. Annan wrote a searing retrospective for the United Nations. He declared that “when peacekeeping operations are used as a substitute for . . . political consensus they are likely to fail.” He added, “The job simply cannot be done.”
These words are just as valid today as when Mr. Annan wrote them in 1999. The U.N. Security Council sent unarmed monitors into an intensifying war zone in Syria without a consensus of the leading powers to back them up. It was wishful thinking to believe that Mr. Assad would be coaxed into [sic... 'out of' is obviously meant] retirement by a divided council. For way too long, the Obama administration -- eager to avoid more decisive action -- clung to unrealistic hopes that Annan’s plan would work.
The administration also seems to have misjudged how steadfastly Mr. Putin would stand behind the Syrian regime. There were vague hopes that, sooner or later, the Kremlin would give up on Mr. Assad. But Mr. Putin refused to budge. For years, he has been disdainful and fearful of the “color” revolutions -- Orange in Ukraine, Rose in Georgia -- that swept autocrats from power. In recent months, he has heard the footsteps of protest outside his own Kremlin walls. He was not about to applaud the drumbeat of another revolution seeking to topple a dictator in Syria. It’s not comforting to see Mr. Putin express an outmoded, Cold War mind-set that sees Russia’s interest in opposing the United States at every step -- but it is something that should not have surprised the White House.
Many in Washington misread Mr. Assad. In some early accounts, he was portrayed as a moderate or modernizing figure, a more enlightened version of his brutal father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for three decades. But the events of the past 18 months suggest that the younger Mr. Assad has matched his father’s record of despotism: He is willing to slaughter an unlimited number of his own people in order to cling to power. Now that diplomacy has utterly failed to stop him, it is time for the Obama administration to consider measures that stand a real chance of accelerating his downfall -- beginning with greater material support for the opposition.
ANNAN QUITS AS SYRIAN ENVOY, BLAMES LACK OF UNITY
By Elizabeth A. Kennedy and John Heilprin
August 2, 2012
BEIRUT -- Kofi Annan announced his resignation Thursday as peace envoy to Syria and issued a blistering critique of world powers, bringing to a dramatic end a frustrating six-month effort that failed to achieve even a temporary cease-fire as the country plunged into civil war.
Annan also had harsh words for the Syrian regime, saying it was clear President Bashar Assad "must leave office."
As the violence escalated on the ground, rebels used a captured tank to shell a military air base near Aleppo -- one of the first known uses of heavy weapons by the insurgents.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Annan blamed the Syrian government's intransigence, the growing militancy of Syrian rebels, and a divided Security Council that failed to forcefully back his effort. Since he took on the job, Russia and China have twice used their veto power to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against President Bashar Assad's regime.
The White House said Annan's resignation highlighted the failure of Russia and China to support action against Assad and called the regime's continued violence against its own people "disgusting."
"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," said Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former U.N. secretary general.
"You have to understand: As an envoy, I can't want peace more than the protagonists, more than the Security Council, or the international community for that matter."
Annan singled out the regime for blame for the violence. But he also said the opposition's increasing militarization had contributed to dooming his six-point peace plan, which included a cease-fire and a Syrian-led political process to end the crisis.
"The bloodshed continues, most of all because of the Syrian government's intransigence, and continuing refusal to implement the six-point plan, and also because of the escalating military campaign of the opposition -- all of which is compounded by the disunity of the international community," he said.
"At a time when we need -- when the Syrian people desperately need action -- there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he accepted the resignation with deep regret, adding that the search was under way for a successor to Annan, who will stay on until Aug. 31. Diplomacy can succeed only when "the parties to the violence make a firm commitment to dialogue, and when the international community is strongly united in support," Ban said in a statement.
In an opinion piece published by the *Financial Times* on Thursday under the headline "My Departing Advice on How to Save Syria," Annan had harsh words for all parties in the conflict. But he appeared to reserve particular criticism for the Assad regime, asserting in his strongest statement to date about the Syrian leader: "It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office."
During his six-month tenure, Annan managed, at least in theory, to get world powers behind his plan -- including the Syrian government and its allies in Iran, Russia, and China -- although his appeals for peace were ignored on the ground.
The regime and the rebels blamed each other for the violence, and Russia and China said attempts to sanction the regime ignored violations by the opposition.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Annan for working "tirelessly" to try to end the bloodshed in Syria. "Unfortunately, the Security Council was blocked from giving him key tools to advance his efforts," she said.
Asked about Annan's resignation, the White House again called for Assad to step aside. The Syrian leader "continues to brutally murder his own people, to use heavy weapons in assaults on civilian population centers, to call on his military leaders to kill the Syrian people in his name," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Russia's U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin said Moscow regrets Annan's decision and Syria's Foreign Ministry also expressed "dismay."
Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, blamed the West. "Regrettably, the so-called Friends of Syria led by the United States have encouraged the opposition and sought to put pressure only on the Syrian government," he told the RIA Novosti news agency.
Amnesty International called Annan's departure the "culmination of a string of failures" and inaction by the U.N. Security Council that allowed the regime's "murderous campaign" to continue.
Annan was appointed envoy in February, representing the United Nations and the Arab League. But he was unable to calm the crisis, which began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests against the regime but has now morphed into a civil war.
According to activists, more than 19,000 people have been killed.
Even though Annan's plan appeared doomed from the start, world powers had few options to help beyond diplomacy -- in part because of fears that any military intervention could make matters worse. Syria's close ties to Iran and the Islamic militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon mean that the conflict has the potential to draw in the country's neighbors.
As the battle for the country intensifies, the rebels used a tank they captured from Syrian soldiers to pound a military air base Thursday in the country's largest city, Aleppo -- an escalation that all but guarantees an even bloodier civil war.
Since opposition forces first started taking up arms against the regime, they have suffered from the huge disparity with Syria's well-armed military, which has tanks, fighter jets, and helicopter gunships at its disposal.
It's not clear whether the rebels will be able to use tanks in a sustained way, as they require fuel and ammunition that is in short supply. But their ability to capture such weapons suggests growing coordination and sophistication.
Still, the Syrian army has far more powerful weapons than the rebels and there was no indication that Thursday's attack on the air base was particularly effective. Later, a nearby village was shelled by government forces out of that same air base.
There was also heavy shelling around the town of Azaz on the Turkish border, which has been in rebel hands for weeks along with a nearby checkpoint crossing, key to delivering rebel weapons and supplies to the Aleppo battle. It would be a huge blow to the opposition if the government retook the crossing.
Rebels attacked Aleppo two weeks ago and have captured several neighborhoods, holding out against bombardments by the government.
With its proximity to rebel-friendly Turkey to the north, Aleppo has enormous strategic importance to the opposition and if the rebels were able to capture and hold it, the city could form the basis for a wider rebel-controlled zone.
In the capital, Damascus, the regime announced a string of raids against rebels in neighborhoods on the southern edge of the city, killing and arresting a number of "terrorists" -- the government's term for its opponents.
Activists reported dozens killed, but that could not be independently confirmed.
Also on Thursday, the regime bombarded the capital's southern suburb of Tadamon with artillery and mortars, sending plumes of smoke into the sky. The regime crushed a bold rebel assault on Damascus two weeks ago, but the latest raids show that pockets of resistance remain in the capital and the surrounding countryside.
A vote was set for Friday in the U.N. General Assembly on a resolution drafted by Arab League countries. But its call for Assad to step down and for sanctions on Syria was dropped because of resistance from Russia, China and several other nations. While the 193-member General Assembly has no legal mechanism for enforcing a resolution, an overwhelming vote can carry moral and symbolic power.
--Heilprin reported from Geneva. Associated Press writers Zeina Karam and Paul Schemm in Beirut, Bassem Mroue in Kilis, Turkey, and Bradley Klapper and Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.
IRAN BLAMES U.S., OTHERS FOR FAILURE OF ANNAN'S PLAN: REPORT
August 3, 2012
DUBAI -- Iran blamed Western and Arab countries on Friday for the failure of Kofi Annan's Syria peace plan, the official IRNA news agency said on Friday, a day after the former U.N. secretary general quit as international envoy.
Annan said on Thursday he was stepping down, frustrated by "finger-pointing" and a stalemate at the U.N. Security Council while the armed rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was becoming increasingly bloody.
"Mr. Annan's reference to a lack of unity at the Security Council is not a reference to China and Russia. The Americans make projections and try to suggest their own opinion instead of the reality," IRNA quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.
"In general, Western countries and some regional countries did not want Mr. Annan's plan to succeed because in that case, they would not reach their goals," Salehi said.
Iranian officials have repeatedly voiced support for Annan's attempt, centered on an April ceasefire that never took hold, to resolve the spiraling crisis that opposition activists say has killed some 18,000 people since March last year.
Shi'ite Muslim Iran backed popular uprisings which removed leaders in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen but has steadfastly supported Assad, who is a member of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Annan repeatedly said regional power Iran should be involved in efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Syria crisis despite the West's firm rejection of any role.
But in an editorial published by the *Financial Times*, Annan said Russia, China, and Iran "must take concerted efforts to persuade Syria's leadership to change course and embrace a political transition . . . It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office."
Iranian leaders have accused the West of plotting with Arab countries to overthrow the Syrian leadership and bolster the status of Israel in the region through backing extremist militant groups.
Last month, Iran said it was ready to host talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups, an offer rejected by members of the Syrian opposition.
"Mr. Annan's plan will continue since it is the best plan on the table," Salehi said.
Earlier on Friday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast blamed "some interfering countries" for the failure of Annan's six-point plan.
The peace plan was supposed to resolve Syria's conflict with an immediate halt to the violence, withdrawal of heavy weapons and military forces from built-up areas, access for humanitarian aid and journalists, and a political transition.
"Not only these countries did not help ... Annan's plan, every time his plan succeeded in one area we would witness a rise in terrorist actions in Syria," Mehmanparast said, according to IRNA.
(Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Jon Hemming)