The Obama administration praised the efforts of Kofi Annan, the outgoing joint special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for the Syria crisis, but officials also said Annan’s efforts could not succeed because the Syrian government would not honor its promises, and the U.N. Security Council failed to support meaningful measures that would pressure Syrians to begin a peaceful political process.
“Mr. Annan is to be commended for taking on such a thankless and difficult task at great personal cost,” U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice said in an August 2 statement.
Praising Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who also served as U.N. secretary-general from 1997 through 2006, Rice said he had taken on the mission “because, as he has throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Annan placed service to the U.N. and the cause of peace above any personal interest.”
Annan was appointed to the position in February, and he put forward a six-point peace plan designed to end the 17-month-old crisis between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Syrians calling for greater human rights and political freedoms. The plan called for an end to violence, unrestricted access for the international media and humanitarian agencies, the release of detainees and the start of an inclusive political dialogue between the regime and the opposition.
Rice said the Assad regime “continuously broke its pledges to implement the six-point plan and persisted in using horrific violence against its own people.”
She added that the Security Council “failed to heed Mr. Annan’s repeated calls for collective and significant consequences for noncompliance with its prior resolutions.” The members who blocked such action in the council, she added, “effectively made Mr. Annan’s mission impossible.”
Speaking to reporters in Geneva August 2, Annan said the increasing militarization of the Syrian conflict and the lack of unity in the Security Council had “fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise” of his role, according to the U.N. News Centre.
“The bloodshed continues, most of all because of the Syrian government’s intransigence and continuing refusal to implement the six-point plan, and also because of the escalating military campaign of the opposition — all of which is compounded by the disunity of the international community,” he said.
The six-point plan “should have been automatically endorsed by the Security Council” and built upon by the international community, he said.
“Without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to compel the Syrian government in the first place, and also the opposition, to take the steps necessary to begin a political process,” Annan said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said August 2 that Annan’s resignation highlights Assad’s broken promises to abide by the peace plan and his continuing to “brutally murder his own people, to use heavy weapons in assaults on civilian population centers, [and] to call on his own generals to kill Syrian people in his name.”
“It is disgusting and really highlights the absolute requirement that for the future of the Syrian people, Assad must step aside,” Carney said.
In addition, Carney said Annan’s departure calls attention to the vetoes by Russia and China in the U.N. Security Council of resolutions that would have held Assad accountable.
“Those vetoes … were highly regrettable and placed both Russia and China on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the Syrian people,” Carney said.
OBAMA APPROVES MORE HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
Carney announced that President Obama has approved an additional $12 million in U.S. humanitarian assistance to Syria, bringing the U.S. commitment to more than $76 million. The U.S. assistance focuses on Syrians who are most urgently in need, both inside the country and in neighboring countries that are hosting them and providing them with aid.
Through the funds, the United States is providing international and local nongovernmental organizations with food, water, medical supplies, clothing, hygiene kits and other humanitarian relief for distribution.
“We continue to work with our international partners, including the Friends of Syria, to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people,” Carney said.
He added that the U.S. position on providing assistance to the Syrian opposition “has not changed.”
“We provide nonlethal assistance to the opposition. We don’t believe that adding to the number of weapons in Syria is what’s needed to help bring about a peaceful transition,” Carney said.