By Salah Awad
By Salah Awad
Morocco World News
New York, May 30, 2012
It has now been a month since the ceasefire brokered by the UN-Arab Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan was established. The number of UN observers in Syria has now reached nearly 300 without any signs that the violence is stopping or that the Syrian regime or the opposition having the intention to engage in a political process to reach a peaceful settlement to the crisis.
With the surge in causalities among civilians and the continuation of oppression by the regime in recent days, there is increment distrust over the effectiveness of Anan’s six-point plan, which was approved by the international community as represented by the Security Council. Despite skepticism about Annan’s plan, the major powers consider that there is no other alternative to spare Syria a bloody civil war. The observers’ mission has become increasingly complex and risky to the observers with bombs blasting near the observers’ convoy and gun fire hitting their vehicles.
The United Nations has acknowledged that the observers’ mission was risky. The UN Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations described Syria as a dangerous place. He declared that “There are unarmed observers but there is no ceasefire, no peace agreement and no dialogue between the main protagonists yet”. He explained “We have never seen such a situation before. Our observers were never exposed to similar situation.
Therefore, we have to be more flexible and more innovative in our approach”. The United Kingdom ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant shared the same view saying “There is a real risk that our observers could be injured or killed while conducting their mission”. The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad did not display any intention to launch a political dialogue. The Syrian opposition remains divided regarding the negotiations with the regime. Nevertheless, diplomats and experts assert that there is no alternative plan to Kofi Annan’s plan. The Joint Envoy declared last week “I know that there are many questions about the outcome in case the plan fails” adding “I am waiting for some suggestions to know what we can do”.
The German ambassador to the United Nations Peter Wittig considered that the failure by the Syrian regime to implement the Annan plan is the main reason behind the spiral of violence on the ground. He added “The international community is tenacious about the Annan plan and there is no other sensible alternative”.
Peter Harling from the International Crisis Group considers that Syria is entrapped in a bloody stalemate and the small number of international observers cannot enforce the ceasefire nor halt the violence. He said that Annan’s plan came to life when the international community could not agree on something else” He added “Therefore, this plan will be supported as long as the crisis is ongoing.” Harling, an expert on Iraq, Lebanon and Syria who has visited the region several times, said in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that “The Syrian regime is still anchored in power, yet it has lost control over the situation. The largest part of the country is in total chaos despite the presence of the military and the security forces.
The most important road that links the north to the south from Aleppo to Damascus is not safe”. He thinks that the armed opposition has hindered the regime forces from establishing a constant presence in different regions in the country. He considers that the countries that support the Syrian opposition may use the Annan plan as a cover to support and arm the opposition in order to create a balance of power between the Syrian regime and the opposition forces with the aim of changing reality on the ground.
There is a pervasive feeling among diplomats and experts that the real battle in the Security Council will start when the international observers’ 90-day mission comes to an end. Russia, supported by China, India, Pakistan and South Africa, is more likely to push for an extension of the international observers’ mission. Despite their reluctance to acknowledge the failure of Annan’s plan, western countries, including the US and France did not make a clear statement about the mission’s fate.
Richard Gowan, an expert at the Centre on International Cooperation of New York University had predicted the failure of Kofi Annan’s mission saying that it was important that western countries allow Annan to officially declare the failure of his plan; otherwise, these countries will be in confrontation with China and Russia. Russia will oppose any sanctions against Syria. If Annan calls for sanctions against Syria, he is more likely to face fierce opposition from Russia and China.
Translated by Loubna Flah and edited by Ahmed Azizi