Syria debacle: was Kofi Annan ever the right man for the job?
Annan accuses UN of finger-pointing as he quits Syria peace role - but what about his own weaknesses?
KOFI ANNAN resigned as peace envoy to Syria yesterday describing his efforts to broker peace as "mission impossible". He then launched a withering attack on the UN Security Council for "finger pointing and name calling".
The joint UN-Arab League envoy accused the Syrian government of "intransigence" in its refusal to implement his six-point peace plan, but also criticised the Syrian opposition for "escalating" its military campaign against President Bashar al-Assad.
Annan's resignation after less than six months in the role had an immediate effect at the UN where the General Assembly prepared to vote on a resolution condemning the Security Council for failing to end the bloodshed. China and Russia have been heavily criticised for blocking UN attempts to impose sanctions on Syria.
Writing in the Financial Times, Annan said that all sides had to compromise. He described Assad as a "dictator" and said it was clear that he now had to leave office, yet insisted: "Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity".
Supporters of the regime had to make "concerted efforts to persuade Syria's leadership to change course and embrace a political transition, realising the current government has lost all legitimacy," he said.
On the other hand, the US, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar had to make sure the opposition supported a "fully inclusive political process – that will include communities and institutions currently associated with the government".
The prognosis is not good. The Guardian says: "Annan's six-point plan for peace in Syria was already moribund but his dramatic resignation will serve as its death certificate. It leaves the international community without an effective grip on the most violent chapter of the Arab spring, now morphing into a civil war that has already cost an estimated 20,000 lives."
The Times notes: "Events on the ground have now outstripped all efforts to forge an international response to the crisis and neither the regime nor the rebels appeared interested in negotiations."
The mandate of the UN observer mission in Syria expires on 19 August and the New York Times says its future is now uncertain.
"Major powers expressed regret over Mr Annan's resignation and acknowledged the difficulties of his assignment," says the paper. "But in doing so they appeared to commit the kind of blame-laying he cited as one reason for quitting." The White House attacked China and Russia, while Moscow said the UN was "biased" against Syria.
Some observers believe Annan was never the right man for the job. Salman Shaikh, a Syria expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told The Independent: "Faced with a rising body count, this situation required from the outset pretty muscular diplomacy, and Kofi is a conciliator."
The Washington Post said that Annan should have learned from his experiences in the former Yugoslavia, where he also tried to find a peaceful solution.
"The five months that Mr Annan devoted to talk, with the ill-considered backing of the Obama administration, simply gave Mr Assad more time to wage war," it said. ·