Annan Casts Blame Widely as He Resigns as Syria Envoy - New York Times
Frustrated by the seemingly intractable Syrian conflict, Kofi Annan announced his resignation on Thursday as the special peace envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, throwing new doubts on whether a diplomatic solution is possible.
In an announcement tinged with bitterness and regret, Mr. Annan said he could no longer do the job, blaming his decision on what he described as Syrian government intransigence, increasing militance by Syrian rebels and the failure of a divided Security Council to rally forcefully behind his efforts.
“I accepted this task, which some called ‘Mission Impossible,’ for I believed it was a sacred duty to do whatever was in my power to help the Syrian people find a peaceful solution to this bloody conflict,” Mr. Annan told reporters at a hastily organized news conference at the United Nations’ Geneva offices.
But, he said, “without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to compel the Syrian government in the first place, and also the opposition, to take the steps necessary to begin a political process.”
Mr. Annan was especially critical of what he called the disunity of world powers. “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.”
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said in a separate announcement that the search was on for a successor to Mr. Annan, who will serve until the end of August, when his mandate expires.
There was no word from Mr. Ban on who might replace Mr. Annan, one of the world’s most experienced diplomats. Mr. Annan himself would not speculate on that question but at the same time sought to counter suggestions that with his departure, the peace effort was over.
“Let me say that the world is full of crazy people like me, so don’t be surprised if someone else decides to take it on, and I am sure Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will find somebody who could perhaps even do a better job than I have done,” Mr. Annan said.
It was no secret that Mr. Annan had grown increasingly flustered over his failure to achieve even a basic cease-fire in the conflict, which began 17 months ago as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and has now escalated into civil war.
A Nobel Peace Prize winner and former United Nations secretary general, Mr. Annan, 74, agreed in February to act as a special representative for both the United Nations and the Arab League to negotiate a peace plan in the Syrian conflict. He received unanimous backing from the Security Council.
Within a few months he negotiated a six-point proposal that called for the Syrian government to withdraw its heavy weapons and troops from populated areas and for anti-Assad fighters to put down their guns. Other provisions included a process for a political transition that, in theory at least, would have replaced Mr. Assad, a member of Syria’s Alawite minority whose family has dominated Syrian politics for four decades.
Despite a pledge from Mr. Assad on March 27 to abide by the peace plan, the Syrian government never implemented it. Mr. Assad’s opponents, sensing that he had no intention of honoring his commitments, did not lay down their weapons either.
Although the Security Council supported Mr. Annan’s efforts, two of its permanent members with veto power, Russia and China, opposed any additional coercive measures that they feared could lead to a change of government imposed by outside powers, foreign military intervention, or both.
The disagreement led to bitter recriminations on the council, pitting Russia and China against the United States, Britain and France, the three other permanent members, which had been pressing for a more forceful Syria resolution.
Mr. Ban noted in his statement about Mr. Annan’s resignation that the Security Council’s own divisions “have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult.”
“Tragically, the spiral of violence in Syria is continuing,” Mr. Ban said in the statement. “The hand extended to turn away from violence in favor of dialogue and diplomacy — as spelled out in the six-point plan — has not been taken, even though it still remains the best hope for the people of Syria.”
Word of Mr. Annan’s resignation came as the United Nations General Assembly was preparing to vote on a resolution drafted by Saudi Arabia that demands that the Syrian government comply with his plan.
But the General Assembly resolution, which is scheduled for a vote on Friday, does not have the enforcement power of a Security Council measure, and has been viewed as largely a symbolic effort to embarrass Syria and its backers.
Major powers expressed regret over Mr. Annan’s resignation and acknowledged the difficulties of his assignment, but in doing so they appeared to commit the same kind of blame-laying he cited as a reason for quitting.
Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Mr. Annan’s resignation “highlights the failure in the United Nations Security Council of Russia and China to support meaningful resolutions against Assad that would hold Assad accountable for his failure to abide by the Annan plan.”
Russian news agencies quoted President Vladimir V. Putin as saying, “Kofi Annan is a very respectable person, a brilliant diplomat and a very decent man, so it’s really a shame.” At the same time, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a message posted on its Twitter account that it would vote against the General Assembly resolution on Syria, calling it unfairly biased against the Syrian government.
There was no immediate reaction to Mr. Annan’s departure from Mr. Assad or the array of Syrian opposition groups, some of which have always expressed doubts about his efforts.
But Louay Hussein, a Syrian writer and longtime opposition activist, said in an e-mail: “The responsibility of the failure of Mr. Annan in his mission is the responsibility of the international community, and not the Syrian parties to the conflict. It will have very negative consequences on the armed conflict in the country.”
The response on social media was immediate, and some of it mocked Mr. Annan for timing the departure deep into a conflict in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and uprooted.
“He realized he could not outdo his performance in Rawanda,” said a Twitter posting by one user as #ReasonsAnnanQuit began trending on Twitter. That was a misspelled reference to Rwanda, where Mr. Annan was responsible for a United Nations peacekeeping operation that failed to halt genocide in 1994.
“Annan should have stepped down a long time ago like Assad,” wrote an activist blogger under the name @HomsiAnarchist. Another author on Twitter who wrote under the name Sate said: “Annan’s mission is accomplished. Western intelligence and logistic support for the ‘rebels’ is established & funding is flowing.”
Christine Hauser contributed reporting from New York, and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon.