Kofi Annan Will Head to Damascus
On Monday, Arab League Chief, Nabil Al Araby told reporters that former U.N. Chief, and current U.N.-Arab League Envoy, Kofi Annan will head to Damascus attempting to engage in face-to-face talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Nasser Al-Qudwa, Palestinian foreign minister and representative to the Arab League will accompany Annan.
Details of his mission have not been revealed, but Annan will attempt to “ease the path” to political dialogue. “The first thing we need to do…is to do everything we can to stop the violence and the killing, to facilitate humanitarian access and ensure that the needy are looked after,” said Annan, at a press conference with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Annan stressed the necessity of the international community to speak “with one voice,” if it is going to have an impact on the Syrian regime.
Members of the Syrian National Council welcomed the diplomatic initiative of Annan, but stressed that his visit “should not focus on security aspects,” but political aspects as well. “Assad has to step down,” said SNC member Radwan Zaideh, and believes Annan has enough credibility to get all the countries “on board for a political settlement.”
Specialist on the United Nations, at New York University’s Center for Global Cooperation, Richard Gowan, stated that Annan’s most important asset is his relationship with Assad. Describing their relationship, Gowan said. “He has a personal history of talking with Assad and he may be able to have conversation that no else can have.”
According to Foreign Policy, Annan has attempted to “reframe the debate” over the Arab and Western approach to Syria by embracing Assad as the epicenter of any potential diplomatic settlements. Cautioning governments who would use the unrest in Syria as an opportunity to “topple the regime by military means,” Annan said, “I know there are people who have other ideas, that dialogue may not be the way to go and one should use other means…For the sake of the Syrian people who are caught in the middle — a peaceful solution, through dialogue and a speedy one is a way to go.”