Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kofi Annan offers bleak progress report on Syria

Al-Jazeera Cartoon: The Annan Plan.

UN envoy's peace plan has thrown up suspicions with briefing to security council suggesting a painful, open-ended process

Ian Black
, Middle East editor, Wednesday 25 April 2012

"Kofi Annan's statement that the situation in Syria is bleak is a rare example of undiplomatic bluntness from the man in charge of what many have described as a "mission impossible" – to find a political solution to the bloodiest crisis of the Arab spring.

The UN special envoy told the security council in a closed briefing on Tuesday that the country was still experiencing an unacceptable level of violence despite a ceasefire that has been partial and tenuous from the moment it began on 12 April. Sensibly, Annan chose instead to call it a "lull in the fighting".

Syrian government troops and heavy weapons had not been withdrawn from towns and cities despite pledges that they would be. "The only promises that count are the promises that are kept," Annan observed. And alarmingly, there was evidence that Syrians who had made contact with the currently tiny – 11-strong – advance UN observer team had later been targeted by the authorities. That was "totally unacceptable and reprehensible".....

This is not proving to be the UN's finest hour. Several countries have complained that its department of peacekeeping operations is moving at a snail's pace to put together the 300-strong monitoring mission that was approved by the security council last weekend. Hervé Ladsous, the under secretary general for peacekeeping, admitted that the deployment was moving slowly and that by the end of next month only 100 monitors – a tiny number given Syria's 23 million people– would be in place.

Still, given that the terms of the UN supervision mission require the agreement of the Syrian government, it is impossible to avoid the obstacles it is now predictably throwing up. The latest is Damascus's refusal to accept as monitors nationals from the 14 countries that comprise the "Friends of Syria" group – such as the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Russians and Chinese are apparently welcome. In parallel to that, Indian journalists are being granted visas; western media organisations find it much harder. It all looks like being a painfully long haul."

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