Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced Thursday that he is stepping down as the U.N.-Arab League mediator in the Syrian conflict at the end of the month.
In an op-ed published by the Financial Times, Annan blamed divisions at the Security Council for the impasse in the country, as the 17-months uprising claimed the lives of more than 19,000 people.
To solve the crisis in Syria, Annan said, a united international community must persuade both sides of the conflict to engage in a political transition.
“But a political process is difficult, if not impossible, while all sides – within and without Syria – see opportunity to advance their narrow agendas by military means,” Annan wrote.
Annan said that the April 12, 2011 ceasefire only worked because it enjoyed full support by the international community. “[C]ontrary to some claims, the government’s shelling of civilian communities stopped, demonstrating the impact this unity could have,” he wrote.
However, the ceasefire did not last because that support did not continue, Annan said. When the Syrian government realized there would be no consequences if they returned to their military approach, they reverted to using heavy weapons again.
Annan said that he tried to revive his plan by creating the international Action Group for Syria in June to establish a framework for a transitional government and thought that the Security Council would support that measure. “Instead, there has been finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council,” he wrote.
Annan called on the backers of both the government and the opposition to press the two sides to engage in a political process, but he said that “President Bashar al-Assad must leave office.”
“Is ours an international community that will act in defense of the most vulnerable of our world, and make the necessary sacrifices to help?” he asked. “The coming weeks in Syria will tell.”