Annan warns of Syria escalation; talks continue

Joint special envoy on Syria for the UN speaks at closed UN council meeting via video, urges SC to break Syria deadlock.

Annan gives a statement after his address to UNSC 370 (photo credit: reu)
Annan gives a statement after his address to UNSC 370
(photo credit: reu)
GENEVA - Kofi Annan, joint special envoy on Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League, said on Friday the situation in the country needed to be handled "very, very carefully" to avoid an escalation that would destabilize the region.
"Yes, we tend to focus on Syria but any miscalculation that leads to major escalation will have impact in the region which would be extremely difficult to manage," Annan told reporters in Geneva after briefing the UN Security Council by video link. He said his talks on halting the violence were continuing with the Syrian government.
Annan urged the Security Council to overcome its deadlock and unify in support of his efforts to end the violence that has brought Syria to the brink of civil war, UN diplomats said.
Addressing a closed-door meeting of the 15-nation council via video link, Annan said the stronger their message is in support of his efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, the greater his chances will be of securing an end to the fighting, council diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
"The stronger and more unified your message, the better chance we have of shifting the dynamics of the conflict," an envoy said, summarizing Annan's remarks.
He added that Annan suggested to council members that Damascus' response to his 6-point peace proposal has been disappointing so far. But Annan's team is continuing to talk with the Syrian government, the diplomat said.
Annan is pushing for a ceasefire and political dialogue between government and opposition.
Annan also said in his message that unified pressure from the Security Council on Syria has succeeded in the past, such as when it pressed Damascus to withdraw forces from neighboring Lebanon, envoys said. That withdrawal was completed in 2005.
Russia and China have twice vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for his year-long attempts to crush pro-democracy demonstrations. The United Nations says Assad's assault on protesters has killed over 8,000 civilians.
Negotiations on a third draft resolution - this time penned by the United States and calling for a ceasefire and humanitarian access for aid agencies - have stalled over disagreements about who in Syria should be the first to stop fighting and who is to blame for the conflict.
Assad says that the opposition must stop fighting first, while the United States, Gulf Arabs and Europeans say Assad and his much-stronger army must make the first move. Russia says both sides should stop firing their weapons simultaneously.
Russia also wants both sides to share equal blame for the conflict, a position Western and Arab nations also reject.
Western diplomats said they would decide whether and how quickly to press ahead with a third resolution after Annan's briefing to the council.
Russia and China have said repeatedly that they believe Western and Gulf Arab countries want Libya-style regime change in Syria, a country that has close ties to Moscow and hosts Russia's only warm-water naval port outside the former Soviet Union. Moscow and Beijing say they oppose regime change there.
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