UN Security Council backs Kofi Annan's Syria peace plan

 

The previously divided UN Security Council sent a strong and united message to the Syrian government and opposition on Wednesday to immediately implement proposals by international envoy Kofi Annan to end the year-long bloodshed.

A non-binding statement approved by the 15 council members and read at a formal meeting spells out Annan's six proposals which include a cease-fire first by the Syrian government, a daily two-hour halt to fighting to evacuate the injured and provide humanitarian aid, and inclusive Syrian-led political talks "to address the legitimate concerns of the Syrian people."

Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy, appealed to the Security Council last Friday for its backing, saying the stronger and more unified the message, the better the chances of shifting the dynamics of the conflict.

The UN estimates that well over 8,000 people have been killed over the past year.

Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the current council president, said the council statement sends "precisely the strong and united message to the Syrian government and all other actors in Syria that they need to respond, and respond quickly and immediately, to the six-point plan."

In a bid to win support from Russia and China, which have twice vetoed European and U.S.-backed resolutions condemning President Bashar Assad's crackdown on protesters, France watered down the statement to eliminate possible consideration of "further measures" which could include sanctions or military action.

Instead, the presidential statement now asks Annan to update the council regularly on the progress of his mission and says that "in the light of these reports, the Security Council will consider further steps as appropriate."

A presidential statement, which needs approval from all council members, becomes part of the council's permanent record. It is stronger than a press statement, which does not. But unlike resolutions, neither statement is legally binding.

Russia and China had called the earlier resolutions unbalanced, saying they only blamed the Syrian government and demanded an end to government attacks, not ones by the opposition. Moscow also argued that the resolutions promoted regime change in Syria and expressed fear of outside intervention to support the rebels, as happened in Libya.

"The most important (thing) is that there are no ultimate demands there, there are no threats, and no theses which would predetermine who carries more guilt," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said of the statement in Berlin, where he met his German counterpart.

France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud said, "It's not a question of threat or of ultimatum. We are expressing our support to Mr. Kofi Annan."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington it was "quite significant" that the council united behind Annan's mission and urged Assad and his regime to "take this path, commit to it or face increasing pressure and isolation."

She called on the Syrian military to refuse orders to fire on its fellow citizens, and on business leaders still supporting Assad to back Annan's mission.

One of the sticking points among Russia, Syria and the West is the sequencing of a cease-fire. Syria says the opposition must lay down its arms first. Russia says the government and opposition must stop fighting simultaneously. Western countries insist that since Assad's forces started fighting first and are responsible for most of the killings, they must stop first.

Annan's proposal would require the Syrian government to immediately stop troop movements and halt the use of heavy weapons in populated areas. As these actions are taking place, it says the government should work with Annan to bring about a halt to violence, under UN supervision.

It says Annan should seek similar commitments from the opposition — with no mention of a time frame.

Annan met twice with Assad on March 10-11 and has sent a team to Damascus to discuss implementation of his proposal.

Germany's UN Ambassador Peter Wittig expressed hope that the statement "will change the dynamic on the ground."

"This is a newly found unity of the council which we welcome after this rather sad track record of the two double-vetoes in the past, and it shows nobody can really have an interest of mayhem in the region," Wittig said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has called the Syrian crisis the most serious issue facing the world, gave strong backing to the council statement and called on the Syrian government and opposition "to work in good faith" with Annan, UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Annan's team is having "good discussions with the Syrian government," but he said Annan's plan calls for engagement with the opposition, "and so far I'm not aware of much success in engaging them."

"This ... is going to be crucial if the Syrian-led political process is established with the help of Mr. Annan," he said.

Clinton said the United States is working with the Syrian opposition "to strengthen its preparation to participate in the Syrian-led transition process that the council has endorsed."

The presidential statement makes no mention of the Arab League peace plan, which calls for Assad to hand power to his vice-president.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss