27 Mar 2013

Kofi Annan: ‘too late’ for military intervention in Syria

Former UN envoy Kofi Annan criticises the people “far away from Syria” calling for increased military support in the country – as Britain and France pushes to supply rebels with more weapons.

Kofi Annan criticises those trying to send more weapons into Syria (pictures: Reuters)

Mr Annan was the UN’s Arab League envoy before resigning in August, blaming “finger pointing” at the United Nations Security Council for stifling his efforts at mediation.

You find some people far away from Syria are the ones very keen for putting in weapons – Kofi Annan

Speaking at the Graduate Institute in Geneva on Tuesday night, Mr Annan said: “I don’t see a military intervention in Syria. We left it too late. I’m not sure it would not do more harm.

“Further militarisation of the conflict, I’m not sure that is the way to help the Syrian people. They are waiting for the killing to stop. You find some people far away from Syria are the ones very keen for putting in weapons.

Syria's Descent: a special report from Channel 4 News

“My own view is that as late as it is we have to find a way of pouring water on the fire rather than the other way around.”

Arming the rebels

France and Britain have been urging the European Union to ease an arms embargo so that Syrian rebels, such as the Free Syria Army, can get more weapons.

However, the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s government is complicated – with a variety of groups of rebels and jihadists, with different amounts of weapons, ideologies and goals – as research from Channel4 News has shown.

Foreign ministers of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – have called for a transitional government in Syria, but left open what part Assad might play.

“Once you talk of a transitional government with full executive authority, it means the existing government is on its way out and you are going to work to make a change. But they didn’t do that. They left Geneva and started fighting again,” Annan said of the divided world powers.

The United Nations says about 70,000 people have been killed in Syria, a figure Annan called “a gross under-estimation”.