Annan Gives Bleak Assessment Of Syrian Ceasefire

Special envoy Kofi Annan says unacceptable levels of violence and abuse are continuing in Syria. He said military activities have declined somewhat but the level of violence is still too high. Annan warned about the devastating repercussions if the fragile peace plan failed.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There was a bleak assessment of the situation in Syria yesterday from the man who drafted the U.N. and Arab League peace plan. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says that unacceptable levels of violence and abuse are continuing in Syria. And that there is a profound concern the country could descend into full-scale civil war.

NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: A weary-looking Kofi Annan took the podium at the U.N. in Geneva and delivered a stark message about the future of Syria. He had just finished a long video link briefing with members of the Security Council about progress on the month-old U.N.-backed peace plan. Annan said military activities have declined somewhat but that the level of violence is still too high. He warned about the devastating repercussions if the fragile peace plan failed.

DR. KOFI ANNAN: If it fails and it were to lead into a civil war, it will not affect only Syria, it will have an impact on the whole region.

NORTHAM: Annan says the world can't wait for ever for the peace plan to take hold. He said the day may come when the U.N. concludes its peace plan doesn't work and may have to take a different tack, but he didn't elaborate.

ANNAN: I know lots of questions have been asked what happens if the plan fails. I'm waiting for some suggestions as to what else we do. I think if there are better ideas, I'll be the first to jump onto it.

NORTHAM: Annan said at this point, possibly the only remaining chance to stabilize Syria rests on the unarmed U.N. observer force, charged with the implementation of a cease-fire as a prelude to political negotiations. It's hoped 300 monitors will be deployed within the month. So far, there are just under 60 observers on the ground.

In the meantime, Annan said the Syrian people are being traumatized. The U.N. says at least 9,000 people have been killed in the conflict over the past 14 months.

ANNAN: My appeal to those with guns, my appeal to those who have taken the - I was going to say the people prisoners, because in a way they are frightened. It's to really think of them, think of the people, think of Syria, and disarm and come to the table.

NORTHAM: Annan blamed both the government and the opposition for the violence and the failure to fully implement his six-point peace plan. But Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, says the U.S. places blame on the Syrian government.

AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE U.S. TO U.N.: The onus remains on the Syrian regime to create the conditions for that success. And thus far, it is plain that the Syrian regime has not implemented fully any of the six points of the joint special envoy's six-point plan.

NORTHAM: Rice says the U.S. will continue to increase pressure on the Syrian government and on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. But like envoy Annan, she says the hope now - however slight - is the peace plan might gain traction, so a political solution for Syria can be hammered out.

Jackie Northam NPR News Washington

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