Kofi Annan: US and Russia should include Iran and the Saudis in a Syria solution

There is no military solution to the conflict in Syria, says former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan. He calls the US and Russia to use the momentum of their deal on chemical weapons to drag Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiation table.

The solution to the Syrian crisis is political and not military, and it is about time that Iran and Saudi Arabia are invited to join negotiations for peace. Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan sent a clear message at a CSR Awards show in Denmark on Tuesday: Use of military force will not work, but the leaders of the world should instead seize the momentum of the US-Russian agreement on chemical weapons to get back to the negotiation table.

“I think that this deal is an important breakthrough. I firmly believe that progress is made, when US and Russia work together – when we see leadership from Obama and Putin. There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. It is a very complex situation,” said Nobel Peace laureate, Kofi Annan to an audience of Danish business people, members of the Danish government and the royal family.

Kofi Annan left his position as a special peace envoy to Syria for the UN and the Arab League a year ago in frustration because of what he said was “finger pointing and name calling” in the UN Security Council. In Denmark he explained his exit like this:

“I was envoy for the UN and The Arab League for six months. I took the job telling the Security Council, that it was a difficult task, but that one could make a contribution, provided that the Security Council stayed together, stayed united and spoke with one voice. Then it would be a powerful voice that would provide me with support needed as their envoy. I had only one round of mediation,” Annan explained candidly.

He started out “energetic”, he said, and presented a six point plan on the Geneva 1 conference. Everyone important was there, he told the audience, naming all the foreign ministers: Hillary, Clinton (US), Sergej Lavrov (Russia), Yang Jiechi (China), William Hague (UK) and Laurent Fabius from France.

“We had a very good meeting. We agreed that there should be a political solution, that we needed a transitional government, taking into consideration all groups in Syria and their interests. We also agreed to do whatever possible to avoid chaos and collapse. I had thought that they would build on this, when they got back to New York. But in July last year the fighting began again with the finger pointing and the name calling.”

Kofi Annan’s exit has previously been seen as “bitter”, but he now sees new possibilities for the international society to get out of the deadlock and maybe bring peace to the area.

“Now with this agreement I think they should use this momentum to get the people back to the table to continue the discussion called Geneva 2. The basic document from Geneva 1 should be the basis for Geneva 2, now that we all agree, that the ONLY solution is a political one. Without a political solution the people of Syria will go on suffering,” Annan said mentioning the more than 100.000 killed, the two million refugees and the five million internally displaced.

Kofi Annan acknowledges that it will not be easy to gather the opposition and form delegations to the negotiations. Syria is a mosaic, he says, with many groups and internal rivalry. That is exactly why the world needs to bring new parties to the table. Iran and Saudi Arabia supports each their groups with weapons, and thus it is about time that they are invited to join the efforts for peace.

“The situation for the people of Syria is really, really horrible. It is a nightmare. We need to do something to get them out of this nightmare. And the way to do it is NOT by sending more weapons or more military activity. Finding a way to get back to the table is not going to be easy.”

“Apart from Syrian parties you need to involve influential countries in the region. I failed to get Saudi Arabia and Iran to the table, and they are absolutely essential. They are key players and they have to be there. Lets hope and pray that this new collaboration between the USA and Russia will be sustained and will make a difference.  Without leadership we will get nowhere, particularly when we all agree that there is no military solution to the crisis.”

In concern to what will happen if Bashar al-Assad does not give up his chemical weapons according to the agreement, Kofi Annan stressed that the deal should not be cancelled because of a discussion on chapter 7 in the UN charter, which allows military intervention. This discussion emerged immediately after the accord between John Kerry and his counterpart Sergej Lavrov.

“There are still challenges ahead. I think it is unconscionable to add the debate on chapter seven. Honestly, it is a horrible way to die by chemical weapons. But over 100.000 have been killed. The deaths by chemical weapons show American figures of 1400 killed and French figures of 230. All the deaths are really horrible. But isn’t the individual life more important than how they were killed? We should stop the killing regardless and this is why coming to the table is important. It is the only way to end the war, but it is not going to be easy even to implement the deal. They have to go in and destroy or remove weapons in a warzone. But it could be durable.”

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About the Author

Paula Larrain

Paula Larrain

Bidt af journalistisk idealisme. Tror efter 25 år i nyhedsbranchen stadig fuldt og fast på, at læserne gerne vil bruge medier til at blive klogere og ikke kun til underholdning. Har tidligere været udenrigsjournalist på Radioavisen og Berlingske Tidende, hvor hun også nåede at være ledende redaktionssekretær, inden hun kom tilbage til DR som vært for TVAvisen. I dag er hun stifter og redaktør af Dit Perspektiv og rejser desuden landet rundt som ordstyrer og foredragsholder

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