News / Middle East

UN's Annan Draws Sympathy, Criticism as Syria Mission Fails

A June 30, 2012 photo shows Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the U.N. and the Arab League for Syria (C), U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L), and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov at the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.
A June 30, 2012 photo shows Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the U.N. and the Arab League for Syria (C), U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L), and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov at the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.
After months of shuttle diplomacy, international envoy Kofi Annan is giving up his bid to resolve Syria's 17-month-long conflict.

Annan said Thursday that he will end his peace mission on August 31, when his mandate expires. The former U.N. secretary-general has been serving as a joint special envoy for the United Nations and Arab League since February 23.

Soon after starting his mission, Annan unveiled a six-point peace plan calling for a cease-fire and dialogue between Syrian government and rebel forces. He also traveled to Syria, its neighbors and world powers to appeal for support.

But the conflict and its death toll worsened, with both sides accusing the other of violating the Annan plan.

Annan issues blame

Annan on Thursday blamed his decision to quit partly on what he called "finger-pointing and name-calling" in the U.N. Security Council.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, he said "I can’t want peace more than the protagonists, more than the Security Council, or the international community for that matter."

But he also suggested that he may not be the last person to try to bring peace to Syria.

"The world is full of crazy people like me," he said. "So don't be surprised if Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon can find someone who can do a better job...I did not receive all the support that the cause deserved."

Analysts said how much responsibility Annan himself bears for the failure of his effort is up for debate.

Interviewed last month, the chief editor of Russian journal "Russia in Global Affairs" said Annan was given an "impossible" task.

Fyodor Lukyanov said traditional diplomacy might have worked last year, when the Syrian conflict was at an early stage.

"When Kofi Annan got this job, it was already too late because the mutual distrust [between the Syrian government and opposition] and level of violence was such that any kind of compromise was almost unthinkable," he said.

Lukyanov said Annan also was hampered by an inability of world powers to agree on how he should implement his peace plan.

"Both Russia and other great powers know that Mr. Annan cannot do more than they want him to do," Lukyanov said. "He's not that powerful."

Russia does not want any settlement to be imposed on longtime ally Syria, saying the principle of national sovereignty must be respected. Moscow fears Western and Arab-led intervention to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could set a precedent for resolving future conflicts within nations.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) welcomes new Chief of General Staff of the Army and the Armed Forces, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, before a meeting in Damascus, July 22, 2012.Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) welcomes new Chief of General Staff of the Army and the Armed Forces, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, before a meeting in Damascus, July 22, 2012.
x
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) welcomes new Chief of General Staff of the Army and the Armed Forces, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, before a meeting in Damascus, July 22, 2012.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) welcomes new Chief of General Staff of the Army and the Armed Forces, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, before a meeting in Damascus, July 22, 2012.
Assad unmoved

Mark Malloch-Brown, a former British diplomat who served as Annan's deputy at the United Nations in 2006, said last month that the envoy also faced a resilient Syrian president. He said the Syrian leader has been able to hang on to power and continue fighting the opposition with the help of external and internal support.

"Mr. Assad has still got Russian and to a lesser extent implicit Chinese backing," Malloch-Brown said. "He also similarly has support from two large neighbors - Iran and Iraq. So from his point of view, he's still got some cards to play. He also continues to enjoy a significant degree of internal support from minorities and from the Damascus merchant class."

Malloch-Brown said Annan succeeded in getting the U.N. Security Council to approve a Syria peace plan and achieve some consensus where it did not exist before.

"This six-point-plan has remained his objective from the beginning despite the huge difficulties and significant failures in getting it implemented," he said. "So he's persistent. And above all else he's calm. Lesser men would have run away from this a lot sooner," Malloch-Brown said.

In a statement Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Annan deserves "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."

Annan criticized

But the head of Syria's main exiled opposition group, Syrian National Council chief Abdulbaset Sieda, said last month that Annan had been "ineffective."

"In the last three months, more than 3,000 people were killed, mass killing happened and our cities and villages were attacked by the government's tanks, artillery, rockets and helicopters," he said. "And that happened during the time of the Annan peace plan."

Former U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, now a Mideast expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, said Annan was engaged in a diplomatic "facade" that enabled world powers to avoid taking action.

"Governments could say, well, you know Kofi Annan is on the case, and he's trying, and maybe this can be resolved, rather than facing the fact that this is a war and that one side or another is going to win," Abrams said. "Russia and China have not wanted him to do much. Once that was clear, and it was clear after a month or two, he should have quit."

Abrams said Annan's attempt to balance the rival interests of world powers was the "wrong model" for resolving the Syrian crisis.

"Unfortunately, he is acting more or less as he did as secretary-general rather than acting in an urgent manner to stop the killing in Syria," Abrams said. "And I think that this effort has diminished and will diminish the reputation with which he left the job of secretary-general."

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs