Kofi Annan to brief UNSC on Syria visit today

UN peace envoy Kofi Annan has pressed the leaders of Iran and Iraq to back his peace efforts to end Syrian crisis.

Updated: Jul 11, 2012, 09:47 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Baghdad: UN peace envoy Kofi Annan will on Wednesday brief a closed meeting of the UN Security Council by videoconference from Geneva on his meeting with Bashar al-Assad and visits to Iran and Iraq.

The council must decide in the coming days whether to extend the mandate of the UN observer force in Syria, which expires on July 20.

Annan on Tuesday pressed the leaders of Iran and Iraq to back his peace efforts to end Syrian crisis.

At a news conference in Iran, the UN`s special envoy on the Syrian crisis said that President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to a plan to quell the bloodshed in the most violent areas of Syria and then expand the operation to the whole country.

Annan, however, added that the plan still must be presented to the Syrian opposition. According to activists, violence in Syria has killed more than 17,000 people since March 2011.

"(Assad) made a suggestion of building an approach from the ground up in some of the districts where we have extreme violence — to try and contain the violence in those districts and, step by step, build up and end the violence across the country," Annan told reporters in Tehran, his first step on a tour of Syria`s allies. He did not elaborate on the plan.

Annan later visited Iraq and met Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss ways to end the fighting.

"I think we`ve all watched the tragic situation in Syria, the killings, the suffering of the people," Annan said in Baghdad. "And everyone I`ve spoken to shares the concerns and the needs for us to stop the killing."

Annan added that Baghdad supports his six-point plan and its comprehensive implementation, Xinhua reported.

Annan and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also agreed on ensuring that the conflict in Syria should not spill over in its neighbourhood.

The conflict in Syria has defied every international attempt to bring peace, and there was no sign that the plan Annan described on Tuesday will be a breakthrough. Although the Assad government`s crackdown has turned the Syrian President into an international pariah, he still has the support of strong allies such as Russia, Iran and China.

There is little support for military intervention of the type that helped bring down Libya`s Muammar Gaddafi, and several rounds of sanctions and other attempts to isolate Assad have done little to stop the bloodshed.

Still, Annan`s latest efforts to reach out to Syrian allies suggest he sees them as integral to solving the crisis.

On Tuesday, Annan said Tehran has offered its support to end the conflict and must be "part of the solution”.

"My presence here proves that I believe Iran can play a positive role and should therefore be a part of the solution in the Syrian crisis," Annan told reporters in Tehran after meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

Annan said he has "received encouragement and cooperation" from the Iranian government but did not elaborate. Salehi also did not spell out what Tehran was willing to do to help tame the violence.

Annan`s gestures to Iran in particular appear to oppose the approach of Washington, which has rejected Iran`s participation in helping solve the crisis.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the US doubts Iran will be able to play a constructive role.

"If the Iranian regime wants to stop giving direct material support to the Syrian killing machine ... we would welcome that. We`re not at that point yet," he said on Monday.

The conflict in Syria is complicated by sectarian tensions. Sunnis make up most of Syria`s 22 million people, as well as the backbone of the opposition. But Assad and the ruling elite belong to the tiny Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

Iraq`s Prime Minister is a Shi’ite, and Iran is a Shi’ite powerhouse in the region.

The six-point peace plan Annan brokered earlier this year has failed to gain traction on the ground in Syria.

Government forces and rebels have widely disregarded a ceasefire that was to begin in April, and spreading violence has kept nearly 300 UN observers monitoring the truce stuck in their hotels in Syria.

Annan stressed the urgency of finding a solution to the crisis.

"If we don`t make a real effort to resolve this issue peacefully and it were to get out of hand and spread in the region, it can lead to consequences that none of us could imagine," he said.

Salehi said Tehran backs the rights of the Syrian people but opposes military intervention. He also blamed the conflict`s increasingly chaotic violence on the meddling of foreign powers.

"Unfortunately, the unwise interference of others has caused the situation in Syria to remain critical," he said. "The worsening of the situation should not happen. It would not benefit anyone in the region."

(With Agency inputs)