Annan Resigns as Syria Peace Envoy

Kofi AnnanKofi Annan. (Photo: World Economic Forum / Flickr)Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the United Nations and Arab League who has sought unsuccessfully for months to resolve the Syrian conflict, has submitted his resignation, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations said on Thursday.

In a statement, Mr. Ban said Mr. Annan had informed him “of his intention not to renew his mandate” when it expires at the end of August.

Mr. Annan has grown increasingly frustrated over his failure to achieve even a basic cease-fire in the conflict, which began 17 months ago as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and has now escalated into civil war.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner and former United Nations secretary general, Mr. Annan, 74, is one of the world’s most seasoned diplomats. He agreed in February to act as a special representative for both the United Nations and the Arab League to negotiate a peace plan in the Syrian conflict, and received unanimous backing from the United Nations Security Council.

Within a few months he negotiated a six-point proposal that called for the Syrian government to withdraw its heavy weapons and troops from populated areas and for anti-Assad fighters to put down their guns. Other provisions included a process for a political transition that, in theory at least, would have replaced Mr. Assad, a member of Syria’s Alawite minority whose family has dominated Syrian politics for four decades.

Despite a pledge from Mr. Assad on March 27 to abide by the peace plan, the Syrian government never implemented it. Mr. Assad’s opponents, sensing that he had no intention of honoring his commitments, did not lay down their weapons either.

Mr. Annan also failed to secure a more forceful threat against Mr. Assad from the Security Council. Though the council supported his peace efforts, two of its permanent members with veto power, Russia and China, opposed any additional measure that they feared could lead to outside military intervention in Syria.

The disagreement led to bitter recriminations on the council, pitting Russia and China against the United States, Britain and France, which had been pressing for a more forceful Syria resolution. Mr. Ban noted in his statement on Thursday that the Security Council’s own divisions “have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult.”

“Tragically, the spiral of violence in Syria is continuing,” Mr. Ban said in the statement announcing Mr. Annan’s resignation. “The hand extended to turn away from violence in favor of dialogue and diplomacy — as spelled out in the six-point plan — has not been taken, even though it still remains the best hope for the people of Syria.”