Annan in Geneva. (Reuters)
New York, Aug. 3: With UN peace envoy Kofi Annan walking out of his mission yesterday, hopes of a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Syria may have been dashed, but the unfortunate turn of events has raised India’s stock at the UN.
New Delhi’s vote in the Security Council last month in support of a western resolution that sought to give teeth to Annan’s mission in Syria has been vindicated by the former UN secretary general’s decision.
Annan, who had been embraced by all sides in the Syrian conundrum early on in his mission because of his impartiality, said yesterday that he had come to the conclusion that “it is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office”.
Writing an adieu to his five-month peace efforts in The Financial Times, Annan said “while the Security Council is trapped in stalemate, so too is Syria…. Instead, there has been finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council”.
In a rare step, the General Assembly today overwhelmingly echoed Annan’s frustration and passed a resolution ‘‘deploring the Security Council’s failure’’ to act. It is unusual for one arm of the UN, its General Assembly, to criticise another, the Security Council.
The resolution was passed with 133 UN members voting in its favour and only 12 voting against, reflecting dwindling support for Assad within the international community. India was among 31 countries which abstained.
Unfortunately for the people of Syria, trapped in a cycle of violence, General Assembly resolutions, unlike those in the Security Council, cannot be enforced. But they have moral weight and reflect views of the majority of nations.
Speaking at a news conference in Geneva explaining his decision to abandon his mission at the end of August, Annan blamed “most of all… the Syrian government’s intransigence and continuing refusal to implement (his) six-point (peace) plan” but he also blamed “the escalating military campaign of the Opposition”.
The Security Council resolution which India voted for on July 19 would have invoked Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to demonstrate to the combatants in Syria, but especially to the government in Damascus, that failure to respond to the Annan peace plan would have consequences.
It demanded compliance under Article 41 of Chapter 7 which rules out “the use of armed force” and not under Article 42 which allows for military solutions. All the same, the Indian government’s decision to vote for the western resolution was criticised by sections of opinion within the country.
It is now clear that this resolution was the only chance for continuing the peace efforts in Syria, but it was vetoed by Russia and China. Unable to get the Security Council behind him, Annan threw in the towel, but India can have the satisfaction that it has no blood on its hands as a non-permanent member of the Council.
In a passionate appeal to the General Assembly before it voted on the resolution today, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon warned that “the conflict in Syria is a test of everything this organisation stands for. I do not want today’s United Nations to fail that test”.