Annan and Bashar al-Assad agree on 'new approach' to Syrian conflict (+video)

Support for further negotiated solutions with the Assad regime in Syria appears to be waning among world powers, however.

By , Staff writer

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    This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows United Nations-Arab League special envoy to Syria Kofi Anan (l.) meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Syria, Monday, July 9. International envoy Annan announced today that he and Bashar al-Assad reached an agreement on a new approach to ending the violence in Syria.
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Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, announced today that he and Bashar al-Assad reached an agreement on a new approach to ending the violence in Syria.

But support for a negotiated solution with the regime to the Syrian crisis seems to be waning, even among those world powers who steadfastly oppose outside intervention. This could leave Mr. Annan with only the regime and its supporters behind his diplomatic efforts, warned an editorial in the Lebanon-based Daily Star today.

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Annan has not yet disclosed details about about the plan, saying only that he would be taking the plan to the opposition next, Reuters reports.

The new agreement comes on the heels of Annan's acknowledgement this weekend to French newspaper Le Monde that his previous plan had failed. “Evidently, we haven’t succeeded,” said Annan, according to Bloomberg. 

“Annan was admitting the obvious,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday in Tokyo. It “should be a wake-up call to everyone. The future to me should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime: their days are numbered.”

But acquiescence from the opposition may be difficult to obtain – the Syrian National Council, the main opposition umbrella group, criticized Mr. Annan for even meeting with Mr. Assad. An SNC statement said that Syrians "cannot justify these steps," referring to Annan's decision to meet with Assad but not attend a recent opposition conference in Paris, despite a death toll of almost 6,000 since Annan's failed peace plan went into effect in April, The Telegraph reports. 

And while the regime's backing of Annan's efforts give it viability on that side, it could hurt Annan's efforts to get others to sign on to the plan. Assad praised the envoy's efforts and heaped blame on others for its failure in an interview with a German television station last week, according to Reuters. 

“We know that [Annan] is coming up against countless obstacles but his plan should not be allowed to fail, it is a very good plan,” Assad said. “The biggest obstacle is that many countries do not even want this plan to succeed so they offer political support and continue to provide the terrorists in Syria with arms and money."

In the Le Monde interview, Annan also criticized Western powers for heaping criticism on Moscow for their obstruction of international action while making little mention of either Iran or Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, all of whom are suspected of fueling the conflict with arms and money, according to an earlier Reuters report.

Russia has influence, but I don’t think that events will be determined by Russia alone. What strikes me is that there is so much talk about Russia and much less about Iran, and little is said about other countries that are sending money and weapons,” Mr. Annan said. “All these countries say they want a peaceful solution, but they undertake individual and collective actions that undermine the very meaning of [UN] Security Council resolutions,” he added.

Yesterday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the Syrian rebel forces are steadily gaining strength and could soon be capable of staging a "catastrophic assault" on the regime. She urged a negotiated resolution to avert such an outcome.

“The sooner there can be an end to the violence and a beginning of a political transition process, not only will fewer people die, but there is a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be very dangerous not only to Syria but to the region,” Ms. Clinton told a Tokyo news conference.

She appeared to be referring to the possibility of Syrian rebels launching such an assault on state institutions rather than to any outside intervention.

“There is no doubt that the opposition is getting more effective in their defence of themselves and in going on the offence against the Syrian military and the Syrian government’s militias. So, the future ... should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime,” Ms. Clinton added.

“The sand is running out of the hour glass.”

In the editorial published today, The Daily Star wrote that continued efforts to negotiate with Assad are, at this point, making the UN an "accomplice" to the Assad regime and described his return to Damascus to meet with Assad, despite an admission that his previous plan had failed, as adding "insult to injury."

Reaching a conclusion the rest of the world had seemingly already arrived at, Annan this weekend admitted that, “Evidently, we have not succeeded.”

But rather than follow that admission up with an announcement that the mission will cease operations, surely the next logical step, Annan actually returns to the scene of the crime, to continue flogging this dead horse.

Whether due to miscalculations, personal political ambitions, or a mixture of both, the mission has now become an accomplice in the enduring regime-sponsored destruction of Syria and its people. And the sooner the UN withdraws the mission, the better, for this act might finally prompt the international community to sit up and create alternative, effective methods to end the massacres, something US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted at Sunday when she remarked that Annan’s acknowledgement “should be a wake-up call for everyone.”

Appeals to the regime, and to President Bashar [al-]Assad himself, whom Annan was due to meet Sunday evening, are no longer enough. A regime which kills its own people, destroys its cities, ruins its economy, makes refugees of its citizens and which can count its remaining international friends on one hand, is not a regime which will make compromises and agree to concede power. 

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