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Global Viewpoint

Heed Balkan lessons for a fragmenting Syria and revise Kofi Annan plan

Kofi Annan's peace plan is failing to stop violence and ensure a political dialogue in Syria. To avoid a Balkans-like tragedy, an updated plan must include negotiations between Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition and deploy armed UN peacekeepers.

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The Annan mandate for international monitors in Syria will end in July. There is no need to wait for the end of their mandate to understand that they cannot change the situation. Much earlier than the mandate expires, within the next 45 days, there ought to be an upgrade in the six-point plan.

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Within this time frame, the US, Russia, and the EU, consulting with the Arab League, should prepare the conditions needed for a negotiation between the Assad government and the Syrian opposition. This can be established under a Chapter VII UN Security Council resolution.

The terms of reference for this negotiation should include non-negotiable principles, such as renouncing violence in the political process and preserving the integrity and sovereignty of Syria as well as its multiethnic and multicultural (sectarian) character. They should also include the necessary changes for free and fair elections (non-discriminatory clauses, freedom of speech and expression clauses, etc.). Assad should understand that further use of Army and uniformed or non-uniformed repression will be interpreted, for the sponsors of this resolution, as a threat to regional peace.

The Troika (the US, Russia, and the EU), through a consultation process among the Syrian parties, should also help in expanding the agenda for the negotiation. Among other issues to discuss would be the community rights charter – a bill of rights for the Syrians who find themselves in a minority position – as an essential precondition for a country that moves from minority to majority rule.

Mediators and diplomats have repeated that Syrians should ultimately find their own way to the future. This sounds right, and it should be so. But leaving the Syrian people only to themselves is to sentence them to a prolonged war and bloodletting. This is a conflict that will not be won by force: The regime will not have the power to stop by force the will of the majority, and the opposition cannot defeat the Syrian Army as it is today, and for some time to come.

The international community cannot stand by, or rely on formulas such as those that have been defeated already by the tragedy of the Balkans.

Veton Surroi is a journalist, writer, and politician. He was a senior negotiator for Kosovo in the Rambouillet peace talks in 1999 and the Vienna status talks from 2005 to 2007.

© 2012 Global Viewpoint Network/Tribune Media Services. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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