Annan sees “one mediation process” key to ending Syrian crisis


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) and Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League joint special envoy for Syria, meet with media after their meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States, Feb. 29, 2012. <Photo: Xinhua/Shen Hong>

Kofi Annan, the UN and the Arab League (AL)’s joint special envoy for Syria, said Wednesday that an one and only mediation process accepted by all parties concerned is crucial for the success in the efforts to end the current crisis in Syria.

“If we are going to succeed, it is extremely important that we all  accept that there should be one process of mediation,” Annan told reporters at the UN Headquarters at the end of his first meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon since he was appointed the special envoy.

“When you have more than one, and people take their own initiatives, the parties play with mediators,” he said. “If one mediator says something that they don’t want, they go to the other. (We need) one single unity process and it is one that the international community speaks with one voice.”

“That voice is powerful and we should pull our efforts and work together,” he said. “I am determined to work with everybody and I am going to consult broadly with all actors and I think I am well on the way in that direction.”

Annan, who served as UN secretary-general from 1997 through 2006, is expected to hold a series of consultations with UN member states through Friday in New York.

Ban, who met the press together with Annan, said that he had asked the joint special envoy to visit some Middle East countries, including Syria, “as soon as possible.”

In response, Annan said, “I would expect to get to Syria fairly soon.”

“I would plead with (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) that he should engage, not only with me but with the process we are launching,” Annan said.

Annan “will need the support of all those inside and outside Syria,” Ban said. “I call on all parties to do their utmost.”

“He will also be counting on the support of all member states on his diplomatic efforts including the Security Council,” Ban said. “He will certainly have mine. I strongly urge the Syrian authorities to extend their full cooperation.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has asked the United Nations to clarify the precise objective of Annan’s mission, ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Wednesday.

“Kofi Annan had talked with Mr. Muallem after his appointment and the Syrian side requested the precise objective of his mission be explained in a letter by the UN so that we can examine it,” the spokesman told reporters in Damascus.

Last Thursday, the UN and the AL announced that they had appointed Annan as their joint special envoy to deal with the crisis in Syria.

In a joint statement, Ban and AL head Nabil El-Araby said Annan would serve as their high-level representative on the crisis, and will be supported by a deputy from the Arab world who would be chosen later.

“The special envoy will provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis,” the statement said.

The appointment of Annan to the post was widely hailed by the international community, including Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Earlier this week, Annan held separate talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

In the first statement in his current post, Annan called for the full cooperation of all parties and stakeholders to help bring an end to the current crisis in Syria.

His next stop will be Cairo to meet with AL Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Annan gave a hint of his approach to what he called “a very difficult assignment and … a tough challenge,” making a plea for only a single mediator, letting it be known he knows tricks played on mediators in the past.

“I am not going to say much tonight, since I am going to the region to talk to all concerned,” he said.

Annan said he was meeting with the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari while in New York and already has been “in touch” with Middle East leaders.

“I am arranging the agenda and as you can imagine in this type of situation, every move is sensitive and highly political, even the itinerary, but we are working it out and I would expect to get to Syria fairly soon.”

Months-long unrest in Syria has caused deaths of thousands. The United Nations recently put the death toll from the Syrian conflict at 6,000, while Damascus said that more than 2,000 army and security personnel have been killed during the 11-months turmoil and blamed armed groups backed by foreign powers for the tumult. <Xinhua/William M. Reilly>

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