posted on Fri 30 Mar 2012 4:08 PM
Briefing by Special Envoy for Syria

On Monday (2 April) the UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, will brief Council members in consultations by videoconference on his mediation efforts. Council members are likely to be interested in Annan’s recent visits to Moscow and Beijing and his plans to visit Tehran and Riyadh in the near future.

On 27 March, Annan received a positive response from the Syrian government to his six-point plan, which comprises an inclusive political process, cessation of all violence, humanitarian access, release of detainees, access for journalists and the right to peaceful demonstrations.

Council members are likely to be interested in the details of President Bashar Al-Assad’s agreement to the six-point plan. It seems Assad has told Annan that he needs to secure agreement from opposition elements to cease violence in order for the Syrian government to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons. The sequencing of the cessation of violence has been an ongoing discussion in the Council’s approach to the Syrian crisis and this dynamic may surface again in discussions following Annan’s briefing.

It seems that at this juncture most Council members believe that Annan’s mediation efforts provide the best chance of resolving the situation in Syria peacefully. With that in mind, although they are interested in hearing Annan’s own thoughts on benchmarks for progress, members seem broadly supportive of allowing Annan enough time to create the political space required to work towards concrete results. It also appears that if Annan continues to make progress many Council members are not likely to see the need for Council action unless there is a need to mandate a UN monitoring mechanism or encourage implementation of the six-point proposal. (However, it is likely that Annan will continue to keep the Council updated on his efforts.)

It also seems that although Council members appear comfortable with the initial planning taking place for such a monitoring mission, they may want more information on the possible options being considered. (Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a former head of UN peacekeeping, is in charge of logistics and coordinating with the UN on any possible UN mechanism.) Some Council members may also raise the need to ensure any monitoring mechanism does not restrict freedom of movement or impinge on the impartiality of the mission.

Council members may also be hopeful that the Arab League Summit decision on 29 March to support Annan’s mediation efforts and the Friends of Syria meeting to be held in Istanbul on 1 April will have a positive impact on his work. (Annan’s deputy, Nasser Al-Kidwa, attended the Arab League Summit in Baghdad and will also attend the Friends of Syria meeting on Sunday. He has also spoken with various opposition elements during the Syrian National Council conference earlier this month.)

Council members may also want to be updated on the results of the humanitarian assessment led by the Syrian government in cooperation with the UN and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which was concluded on 26 March. It seems that the recent humanitarian assessment found that at least 1 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. Council members are likely to be aware that OCHA head,
Valerie Amos, has indicated that further assessment and monitoring will be required and has underscored that humanitarian efforts remained separate from the political agenda. This is an issue that may come up in the Friends of Syria meeting as the humanitarian community has stressed the need to keep the humanitarian and political approaches to the situation separate.

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