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
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders