Monday 19 March 2018

It's too late for the West to intervene in Syria, says Annan

Smoke rises after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the old city of Homs
Smoke rises after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the old city of Homs

Damien McElroy London

Western backers of the Syrian opposition have left it too late to mount a military invention that would bring the conflict to a close, according to Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General.

Mr Annan, who led international efforts to find a negotiated solution to the Syria civil war until last year, said he believed both sides in the conflict preferred conflict to a peace transition.

"I don't see a military intervention in Syria. We left it too late. I'm not sure it would not do more harm," he said in a speech in Geneva. "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."

While delivering a bleak judgment on the appetite for compromise between President Bashar al-Assad and his rivals, Mr Annan said negotiations remained the only route out of the crisis.

"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," he said. "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."

Mr Annan secured world backing for a set of principles for transition of power in Syria at a meeting in Geneva last year. His successor, Lakhdar Brahimi, has pursued that plan, but has failed to bridge gaps between the United States and Russia, which resists Western demands for Assad's removal.

Meanwhile, Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of the Syrian opposition has said he was "scared" by the Western failure to protect civilians under attack by the regime.

Nato rebuffed suggestions that Patriot missiles based in southern Turkey could be used as a shield to protect rebel-held areas from Assad's air power.

"Yesterday I was really surprised by the comment issued from the White House that it was not possible to increase the range of the Patriot missiles to protect the Syrian people," he said. "I'm scared that this will be a message to the Syrian regime telling it, 'Do what you want'." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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