UNITED NATIONS - International mediator Kofi Annan will
present the UN Security Council on Thursday with a new proposal in a
last-ditch effort to rescue his failing peace plan for Syria, where 15 months of
violence have brought the country to the brink of civil war.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will address the 15-nation council behind
closed doors at 3:00 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT). Ban and former UN chief Annan will
also speak to the 193-nation General Assembly at 10:00 a.m., along with Arab
League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby.
The two UN meetings, which will
focus on the escalating crisis in Syria, come as the Syrian opposition and
Western and Gulf nations seeking the ouster of President Bashar Assad
increasingly see Annan's six-point peace plan as doomed due to the Syrian
government's determination to use military force to crush an increasingly
The core of Annan's proposal, diplomats said,
would be the establishment of a contact group that would bring together Russia,
China, the United States, Britain, France and key regional players with
influence on Syria's government and the opposition, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar,
Turkey and Iran.
By creating such a contact group, envoys said, Annan
would also be trying to break the deadlock among the five permanent council
members that has pitted veto powers Russia and China against the United States,
Britain and France and prevented any meaningful UN action on the Syrian
conflict, envoys said.
It would attempt to map out a "political
transition" for Syria that would lead to Assad stepping aside and the holding of
free elections, envoys said. One diplomat said the idea was "vaguely similar" to
a political transition deal for Yemen that led to the president's
The main point of Annan's proposal, they said, is to get Russia
to commit to the idea of a Syrian political transition, which remains the thrust
of Annan's six-point peace plan, which both the Syrian government and opposition
said they accepted earlier this year, but have failed to
"We're trying to get the Russians to understand that if they
don't give up on Assad, they stand to lose all their interests in Syria if this
thing blows up into a major regional war involving Lebanon, Iran, Saudis," a
Western diplomat told Reuters. "So far the Russians have not agreed."
Russia remains supportive of embattled Assad
Apart from lucrative Russian arms sales to Damascus, Syria
hosts Russia's only warm water port outside the Soviet Union.
Russia has repeatedly said it is not protecting Assad, it has given no
indications that it is ready to abandon him.
Last week, US Ambassador
to the United Nations Susan Rice suggested that if Russia continued to prevent
the Security Council from putting pressure on Syria, states may have no choice
but to consider acting outside the United Nations.
Diplomats said the
West has been pushing Russia to abandon Assad in a series of recent meetings
between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with
their European and US counterparts.
An unnamed diplomat leaked further
details of Annan's proposal to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who
said that if the contact group agreed on a transition deal for Syria, it could
mean Russian exile for Assad.
The Post article said another option for
Assad would be to seek exile in Iran, Damascus' other staunch
Annan's peace efforts have failed to halt the violence, as
demonstrated by a recent massacre in Houla that led to the deaths of at least
108 men, women and children, most likely by the army and allied militia,
according the UN Opposition members said there was a similar massacre on
Wednesday in Hama province, with 78 people killed.
But some said there
was still hope for Annan's peace plan.
"It may be on life support, but
it's not dead," a senior Western diplomat said about the peace plan.
what could be the first step toward the creation of Annan's contact group,
Russia's Lavrov on Wednesday floated the idea of an international meeting on the
Syrian crisis that would bring together the prime candidates for Annan's
proposed contact group, including Iran.
US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, however, reacted coolly to the idea of including Iran, which she said
was "stage-managing" the Syrian government assault on the opposition the United
Nations says killed at least 10,000 people.
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