This was Kofi Annan's first briefing to the UN Security Council on his mission in Syria as the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and LAS. The meeting (March 16, 2012) was closed and Annan joined the Council via video link from Geneva.
In these remarks Annan pointed out his 6 Points Plan and the Syrian authorities' response to his proposal.
"16 March 2012
Briefing to the Security Council on the situation in Syria
by video – link from Geneva
H.E. Mr. Kofi A. Annan
Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of the Arab States on Syria
I thank the Security Council for this invitation to brief you on my initial efforts as Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of the Arab States on Syria.
As you will recall, when I took up this mission and briefed you in internal consultations, I stressed three things:
First, my goals are clear, in accordance with my mandate: to stop the killing, abuses and human rights violations; enable humanitarian assistance; and launch a political process to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
Second, my mission will be very difficult and faces daunting odds. But I am convinced it can succeed with the united support of the international community behind one mediator effort, with clear goals.
Third, my only concerns in taking up this role are the welfare of the Syrian people and the well-being of the region. The situation is already disastrous in parts of Syria. It could become catastrophic if there is not an urgent change of course.
Since taking up my appointment, I have consulted quickly and widely – first in New York, then in the region. I have appreciated the support offered by the Secretary – General Ban and Secretary General el-Araby, with whom I am in almost daily contact. I also thank the members of the Council for the support they have expressed to me.
I visited Cairo, Damascus, Doha, and Ankara between 8 and 12 March, I was briefed by Secretary General el-Araby in some detail on the Arab League’s efforts the crisis in Syria, including engagement with President Assad, the deployment and withdrawal of Arab monitors, and the formulation of the Arab League Plan. Many Arab leaders and foreign ministers briefed me in detail as well.
A number of interlocutors, particularly those who had invested heavily in urging the Syrian authorities to stop the violence and engage in meaningful political reform, expressed deep frustration at lack of performance by the Syrian government on commitments made.
In Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu also stressed the immediate consequences of the crisis for Syria’s neighbors. In particular, Turkey is concerned aat spill-over effect of the crisis and growing numbers of refugees fleeing into Turkey. Since the beginning of this month, more than 5,000 refugees entered Turkey, bringing their number to over 12,000.
In Damascus, I met President Bashar al-Assad twice, as well as Foreign Minister Moallem – I will come back to these meetings shortly. I also held a series of meetings with opposition leaders, youth activists, business and religious figures, and discussed the economic, security, human rights and political crisis in the country. I place great importance on engaging all relevant stakeholders, inside and outside Syria, and they all welcomed and stressed the importance of my mission.
In this context, after leaving Syria, I met a delegation of the Syrian National Council headed by Mr. Burhan Ghalioun in Ankara on 12 March 2012. Mr. Ghalioun committed to working with me, viewing my mission as the last opportunity for a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. He was deeply critical of the brutality of the Syrian government’s military actions, and stressed the urgent need to enable humanitarian access and to stop the violence. He agreed in the importance of a political process, arguing that its goal must be to ensure a transfer of power in Syria. I encouraged Mr. Ghalioun, as I have all opposition figures with whom I have had contact, to continue their efforts to build unity among their ranks under one umbrella, and reach out a broad cross-section of Syria society.
I now come to the heart of the matter. I met with President Assad twice in Damascus. I spoke in frank terms. I explained that Syria was at a tipping point after one year of deepening crisis and bloodshed. I told him it was urgent to change course before the situation degenerated further.
President Assad said he was ready to work with me. He stated that he embraced reform. He said the problem was not the existence of opposition, but the violent actions of militants, some receiving weapons from outside. These elements needed to be dealt with by security measures. Furthermore, if Government troops withdraw from areas in which militants were present, there would be a security vacuum. He claimed that the media was distorting the reality on the ground, and that most casualties had been among government supporters.
I told President Assad that the use of force by any side would only prolong and deepen the conflict, creating bitterness, hatred, and radicalization. I told him that the excessive use of force and abuses of civilians by Syrian military and security forces are totally unacceptable. Such abuses are driving what began as a peaceful protest movement towards militarization, providing a pretext to extremist groups. I warned the President that if this continued, calls for further international measures would inevitably grow.
I acknowledged that militants would need to be disarmed as part of a political process, but the immediate priority should be to stop the violence and bring a UN supervision mechanism to monitor it, and then embark on a political process to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
To this end, I presented a set of proposals for immediate action. Let me stress: these proposals are not a comprehensive list of all the steps that the Syrian government will need to take if this crisis is to be resolved and a political solution found. Instead, I asked the President to take steps that are realistically in his hands today, to defuse the crisis and send a clear signal that he was ready to change course. I signaled in this regard my readiness to work in good faith to address concerns on his side. I put six points to the President in the form of a Aide Memoire on 11 March:
First, I asked President Assad to commit to work with me in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people. To this end, I asked him to commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by me.
Second, I asked President Assad to commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an
effective UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country. To this end,
I proposed the following:
- Immediately, the Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards population centres, end the use of heavy weapons in population centres; and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres.
- As these actions are being taken on the ground, the Syrian government should work with me to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective UN supervision mechanism,
- For my, part I pledged to seek similar commitments from the opposition and all relevant elements that they would stop the fighting and work with me to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective UN supervision mechanism.
Third, I asked the President to ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting. To this end, as immediate steps, I asked him to accept and implement a daily two hour humanitarian pause effective 14 march 2012 upon request of the Humanitarian Coordinator; and to coordinate the exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient liaison mechanism, including at local level.
Fourth, I asked the President to take the following steps concerning all persons detained arbitrarily owing to the recent incidents:
In close collaboration with the ICRC, intensify the pace and scale of the release of such persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities.
Provide without delay ICRC a list of all places in which such persons are being detained.
Immediately begin organizing with the ICRC access to these places.
Respond promptly in writing to all written requests through the ICRC for information, access or release regarding such persons.
Fifth, I asked President Assad to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists, and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them.
Finally, I asked President Assad to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.
President Assad committed to work with me and promised to come back to me in forty-eight hours with a reaction to my proposal. I indeed received a reply from the Syrian authorities with the agreed timeline. The Syrian government committed to work with me on a comprehensive political process. However, the authorities insisted that any pause for humanitarian access would need to be on an ad hoc basis, they did not engage on the immediate need to stand down heavy military operations, which I believed could enable a process in which commitments are sought from all relevant parties to enable a full cessation of hostilities under UN supervision. Regarding detainees, free movement of media, and the right to peaceful protest, the authorities gave general answers which can only be tested by observing actions on the ground. I would characterize the response as disappointing.
I communicated my disappointment to the authorities who maintain effective channels with Syria. The following day, 14 March, I received a further communication from the Syrian authorities, where they agreed that the aim was to halt the violence. They sought an objective dialogue on the details and mechanisms by which this could be achieved. I will be pursuing this discussion urgently through technical consultations in Damascus in the coming days.
This is where matters currently stand.
Allow me to conclude with a three brief observations.
First, the proposals I put forward on 11 March represented immediate and actionable steps, aimed at halting the excessive use of force and human rights violations and at opening a process towards serious dialogue. I appreciate the Syrian government’s readiness to engage, but this must translate into action on the ground. Gestures which show a change in direction could immediately be accompanied by a meaningful effort facilitated by me to achieve a cessation of hostilities by all parties under UN supervision.
Second, I appeal to the Council for unity behind my effort. The stronger and clearer the message you can collectively send, the better the chance that we can begin to shift the worrying dynamics of the conflict. I have been in constant contact with Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors from of many states inside and outside the Council. I have appreciated the counsel and help received from all quarters. I would hope that the proposals put by me to the Syrian authorities could attract wide international support.
Third, as we focus on the immediate need to stop the violence, let us remember this: ultimately, as inclusive and credible political dialogue is needed to address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and ensure their fundamental rights. The process, content, and outcome f such a dialogue, if ever we can reach that point, are for Syrians to decide, and will be crucial to the future of Syria and the region. In this regard, I take due note of the corpus of work that has been done in the past year, and will urge all interlocutors to focus with realism and responsibility on the tasks ahead.
But first, Mr. President, the violence must stop and the people who have suffered so much must receive assistance, relief and protection. This is my immediate priority, and I will spare no effort in this regard.
Thank you, Mr. President."
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