Annan: Russia, West agree on transition government for Syria
The unity government should be formed on the basis of "mutual consent" said Annan. The Syrian-led transition should take place within a fixed period of time and the envoy hopes this may happen by the end of the year.
Annan, announcing the official communiqué of the international meeting in Geneva, called on the Syrian regime and opposition groups to re-commit to a ceasefire and to start implementing his six-point peace plan immediately, without waiting for the other side.
The plan urges the sides in the Syrian conflict to cooperate with UN observers, allow humanitarian aid delivery, release detainees and grant journalists access to the country. The right to peaceful demonstrations must also be respected, stressed Annan.
Prior to the conference, Annan had proposed a plan for a unity government in Syria excluding political figures that would compromise the country’s stability and effectively calling for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow refused to back such a condition and also made sure the plan brokered in Geneva would not require Assad to step down.
Kofi Annan also said that foreign ministers who took part in the conference in Geneva would make up a regular working group on the Syrian crisis. A new round of Syria talks may take place in Moscow, suggest diplomatic sources.
Assad: To stay or not to stay?
Despite calls from some international players for the Syrian president to immediately step down, the world powers have agreed in Geneva that it is up to the Syrian people to determine their political future, leaving the door open for Assad to be a part of the new government.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out the new document does not lay down a political process for Syria, a provision that was among major demands Russia and China took to Geneva.
“We consider it of the utmost importance that this document does not seek to dictate to the Syrian sides how the transition process should happen politically. How exactly this process will take place is up to the Syrian people. This document is very precise on that,” Lavrov told reporters.
To find compromise with Russia, the United States backed away from its calls for the immediate resignation of President Assad but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still said the new transition plan means Assad will have to go anyway, as the Syrian leader would hardly pass a “mutual consent test, given the blood on his hands.”
“There is a credible alternative to the Assad regime,” she said. “What we have done here is to strip away the fiction that he and those with blood on their hands can stay in power.”
Lavrov however stressed that Moscow“is not justifying” the actions of the Syrian government. “It is the regime that is responsible for the security in the country. The regime is significantly late with reforms,” Russian foreign minister noted.
During the meeting, British foreign secretary William Hague called for the UN Security Council to draft a resolution imposing sanctions against the Arab country. He also maintained that President Assad and his close associates could not lead a transition, reports Reuters.
“Without [a UNSC resolution] and the prospect of penalties for non-compliance, there can be little credible pressure on the Syrian regime and other parties to change course," said Hague.
The US would call a UNSC session over the Syrian crisis, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in the press conference that followed. Sanctions based on UN Charter VII should be used against Syria if Annan’s new plan is not implemented, she added.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures during a news conference after the meeting of the Action Group on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, June 30, 2012 (Reuters/Valentin Flauraud)
Most of the Syrian opposition reacted negatively on Sunday. The Syrian National Council, an umbrella group based in Istanbul, dubbed the new agreement “ambiguous” and said it lacked implementation timeframes. Its ex-head, Burhan Ghalioun, branded the conference a “farce” and a “mockery,” reports Agence France Presse.
The Syrian ruling party's newspaper, Al-Baath, also said the meeting had "failed."
"The agreement of the task force on Syria in Geneva on Saturday resembles an enlarged meeting of the UN Security Council where the positions of the participants remained the same," wrote Al-Baath.
For more reaction from Syria, watch RT's Maria Finoshina reporting from Damascus
The violent uprisings that started over 16 months ago in Syria have become increasingly more militarized over the last few months. Both the Syrian president and the UN envoy Annan have classified the conflict as an all-out war.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said that the death toll has reached over 10,000, while opposition groups say that the figure is a lot higher.
However Patrick Henningsen, associate editor at Infowar.com, does not believe the Geneva meeting will have a positive outcome, saying it was set up to fail.
“As this meeting is going on in Geneva, the West are backing proxy guerilla armies of foreign fighters who are getting refuge in countries like Turkey over the border where Syria cannot hit them.”
Assad had earlier stated that he will not accept any transition plan that is “not Syrian,” “not national.” Henningsen believes that Assad has hinted in the media as to what Western plans for Syria really are.
“Ideally they would like to break the county up into separate regions and to balkanize this country for many reasons – energy pipeline project coming from Qatar, border disputes with Turkey, and also to minimize Russia’s influence not just in Tartus, but overall in the coastal region.”