Thursday, June 7, 2012

Annan's remarks before UN General Assembly

Kofi Annan briefs on the situation in Syria
 to the General Assembly. 7 June 2012. (Click on picture)
Three months ago -- after a year of deepening crisis, and based on your guidance -- Secretary-General Ban and Secretary-General Elaraby gave me a tough job.  They asked me to lead a united effort on behalf of the United Nations and the League of Arab States to stop the violence and killing in Syria, and launch a political process for a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

Today, despite the acceptance of the six-point plan and the deployment of a courageous mission of United Nations observers to Syria, I must be frank and confirm that the plan is not being implemented.

Mr. President, let me pause here and express my horror and condemnation at the fact that a new massacre of tens of civilians including children and women was perpetrated yesterday in Al Qubayr, west of Hama.  My heart goes out to the victims and their families.  This took place just two weeks after the massacre in Houleh that shocked the world.  Those responsible for perpetrating these crimes must be held to account.  We cannot allow mass killing to become part of everyday reality in Syria.

As the Secretary-General has clearly explained, the crisis is escalating.  The violence is getting worse.  The abuses are continuing.  The country is becoming more polarized and more radicalized.  And Syria’s immediate neighbours are increasingly worried about the threat of spillover.  

Nine days ago, I met President Assad in Damascus.  I told him that the six-point plan is not being implemented as it must. I strongly urged him to take bold and visible steps to now radically change his military posture and honour his commitments to the six-point plan.  I urged him to make a strategic decision to change his path.  I also made clear that his Government must work with my mediation effort on behalf of both Organizations that I represent.

President Assad believed the main obstacle was the actions of militants.  Clearly, all parties must cease violence.  But equally clearly, the first responsibility lies with the Government.

Since then, shelling of cities has intensified. Government-backed militia seem to have free rein with appalling consequences.  Yes, some detainees have been released, and agreement has been reached on modalities for humanitarian assistance.  But the hour demands much more.  And President Assad has not indicated a change of course in his recent address to the National Assembly.

Despite the fear and the violence, ordinary people continue to make their voice heard in protests in the street.  Armed opposition groups have stated that they see no reason to respect cessation of hostilities.  They have intensified their attacks, which will not serve the cause of the Syrian people.  And the situation is made more complex and deadly by a series of bombings -- some of which are indicative of the presence of a third actor.

If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence, and even all-out civil war.  All Syrians will lose.
When I joined the Arab League Ministers meeting in Doha on 2 June, many expressed their frustration and anger at the situation.  They also offered concrete ideas on how to increase pressure for compliance.  Clearly, the time has come to determine what more can be done to secure implementation of the plan - and/or what other options exist to address the crisis.

It is your shared interest - and our collective responsibility - to act quickly.  The process cannot be open-ended.  The longer we wait, the more radicalized and polarized the situation will become, and the harder it will be to forge a political settlement.

The international community has united, but it now must take that unity to a new level.  We must find the will and the common ground to act – and act as one. Individual actions or interventions will not resolve the crisis.  As we demand compliance with international law and the six-point plan, it must be made clear that there will be consequences if compliance is not forthcoming.  We must also chart a clearer course for a peaceful transition, if we are to help the Government and opposition, as well as Syrian society , to help resolve the crisis.

If we genuinely unite behind one process, and act and speak with one voice, I believe it is still possible to avert the worst and enable Syria to emerge from this crisis.  I will spare no effort, and I know Secretaries-General Ban and Elaraby too. But for the sake of the people of Syria, who are living through this nightmare, the international community must come together and act as one.

Thank you, Mr. President.
Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab

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