Kofi Annan’s appointment as joint UN/Arab League Special Envoy arguably offers a chance to rescue fading prospects for a negotiated transition in Syria. It must not be squandered.
Now or Never: A Negotiated Transition for Syria, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, notes that while Annan’s mission faces very long odds, it still represents the best hope for reversing the country’s slide.
“With every day of intensified violence and rising death toll, the possibility of achieving a political solution slips further away”, says Louise Arbour, Crisis Group President. “But the alternative is clear, and it is ugly. If the international community surrenders to that fate, all will pay a huge price”.
One year into the Syrian uprising, the level of death and destruction is reaching new heights, said the International Crisis Group, which noted that “outside actors – whether regime allies or opponents – remain wedded to behaviour that risks making an appalling situation worse.”
According to ICG, Growing international polarisation simultaneously gives the regime political space to maintain an approach – a mix of limited reforms and escalating repression – that in the longer run is doomed to fail; guarantees the opposition’s full militarisation, which could trigger all-out civil war; and heightens odds of a regional proxy war that might well precipitate a dangerous conflagration.
In the opinion of ICG, Annan’s appointment as joint UN/Arab League Special Envoy “arguably offers a chance to rescue fading prospects for a negotiated transition. It must not be squandered. For that, Russia and others must understand that, short of rapidly reviving a credible political track, only an intensifying military one will remain, with dire consequences for all.”
ICG argues that Annan’s best hope lies in enlisting international and notably Russian support for a plan that comprises an early transfer of power that preserves the integrity of key state institutions.
In addition, any such plan should ensure a gradual yet thorough overhaul of security services and put “in place a process of transitional justice and national reconciliation that reassures Syrian constituencies alarmed by the dual prospect of tumultuous change and violent score-settling.”
The ICG admits that “such a proposal almost certainly would be criticised by regime and opposition alike. But it would be welcomed by the many Syrians – officials included – who long for an alternative to the only two options currently on offer: either preserving the ruling family at all costs or toppling the regime no matter the consequences.”