16 Mar 2012

Kofi Annan to set out ‘last chance’ for Syria’s Assad

As Kofi Annan, special envoy for Syria, briefs the UN Security Council, is this President Assad’s last chance? One blogger tells Channel 4 News it’s now a clear choice – “guns or words”.

Kofi Annan. (Getty)

There is a growing sense that Kofi Annan’s efforts with Syria‘s ruling regime are the last opportunity for Bashar al-Assad to engage with the international community.

The former United Nations secretary-general said this week that the “door of dialogue is still open”. However, the continued bloodshed may force this door shut.

Mr Annan remains in close contact with senior Syrian authorities, Russia and other powers over his proposals to end the unrest. He met President Assad in Damascus earlier this week and called for a halt in fighting, humanitarian access and the starting of political talks with Syria’s opposition.

Syria’s initial response seemed to signal a commitment to work with the special envoy and co-operate with the UN’s humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.

However, finding quick agreement on the remaining elements of the proposal may prove more difficult. Security Council (UNSC) members will want to get a sense of whether a resolution at this point will be helpful in increasing pressure on the Syrian government or if it would hamper Annan’s negotiations.

Read Lindsey Hilsum's blog: The politics of non-intervention in Syria

Syria blogger “Sasa”, who did not wish to be identified, told Channel 4 News there are two solutions to this crisis – “guns or words”.

He said: “The west has made it clear that it won’t intervene or arm the rebels, but at the same time it refuses to sit down and talk. Assad has repeatedly misled those who have engaged in dialogue, so there’s no reason to believe any new talks would be sincere.

A young Syrian boy in a refugee camp. (Getty)

“But amid all this doubt, look at Yemen – the president was talked out of office there, much to everyone’s surprise, so why not in Syria?”

UN sanctions are not expected to be imposed on Syria. However, there is talk of yet stronger EU sanctions and more designations of entities and individuals for asset freezes and travel bans.

(Pictured: A Syrian refugee child behind the fences of Boynuyogun Refugee Camp in Reyhanli. Getty Images.)

The security council briefing follows the publication of leaked emails sent by President Assad, in which he appeared to scoff at the idea he might implement multi-party democractic reforms.

This revelation may be helpful in negotiations with UNSC members who have been arguing that the Damascus regime needs time and space to develop and implement reforms.

“Sasa” told Channel 4 News: “The leaked emails shine a light into the dark recesses of this most opaque of governments.

“They shows how the president is living in a bubble, even joking about the crisis and mocking his own reforms.”

The UN says Syrian forces have killed more than 8,000 people in the uprising so far. The violence has also uprooted 230,000 people, with a refugee crisis now looming.