Syria: Kofi Annan steps down (+video)
Citing the Syrian government's intractability, increasing violence and the international community's lack of consensus, former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan announced his resignation. He says there is still a chance for Syria to avoid the worst, 'if the international community can show the courage and leadership necessary.'
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Instead, the small contingent of U.N. observers still on the ground in Syria said this week that the government had begun using jet fighters — a significant escalation of previous tactics. Meanwhile, insurgents were deploying tanks and other heavy weaponry seized from the military.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Reaching a critical juncture in Syria
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On the ground, the brutality of the conflict is increasingly evident, with almost daily reports of “massacres” by both sides. A widely circulated video uploaded onto YouTube this week documented the execution of alleged pro-government militiamen by rebels.
Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, voiced deep frustrations with his effort to overcome profound divisions among global powers on how to stop a conflict that has already cost more than 10,000 lives.
“I can’t want peace more than the protagonists, more than the Security Council or the international community for that matter,” Annan said. “Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity — if the international community can show the courage and leadership necessary.”
The spillover effect has already been enormous. Fighting has sent more than 200,000 refugees streaming into neighboring nations, including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Cross-border battles have erupted along the Lebanese frontier, while Turkey moved up troops and anti-aircraft batteries to its border after Syria shot down a Turkish warplane.
It remains unclear what exactly the U.N. can do. Major powers such as the United States and its allies are hesitant to intervene militarily in Syria, with its complex ethno-religious makeup and its still-formidable military arsenal.
Russia, with veto powers in the Security Council, was determined to avoid any kind of Libya-style Western intervention. On three occasions, Russia and China blocked Security Council resolutions that could have led to sanctions against the government of Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., praised Annan for taking on a ‘thankless and difficult task.” She blamed the Syrian government, and without naming them, the Russians and the Chinese, for its failure.
Annan’s mission “could never have succeeded so long as the Assad regime continuously broke its pledges to implement the Six Point Plan and persisted in using horrific violence against its own people,” she said, adding that Security Council members who blocked resolutions that would have penalized Assad “effectively made Mr. Annan’s mission impossible.”
Russian officials appeared to be surprised by Annan’s resignation, and one official put the blame on the West. “Annan must have quit because he realized he will not get the backing he needed from the West,” said Leonid Kalashnikov, deputy chief of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
Annan assigned blame to all Security Council members, complaining that at a time “when the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger pointing and name calling in the Security Council.”
(Staff writers Paul Richter in Washington and Sergei L. Loiko in Moscow contributed to this report.)
©2012 Los Angeles Times
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IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria