UN-Arab League mediation process for Syria crisis ‘on track,’ says official
“The Annan plan is on track,” said Ahmad Fawzi, spokesperson for Mr. Annan, at a news conference in Geneva. “A crisis that has been going on for over a year is not going to be resolved in a day or a week. Realistically, it’s going to take a little more time to pull all the strings together, but rest assured that they are being pulled together.”
Mr. Annan’s six-point proposal calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
One of the main achievements of Mr. Annan’s plan has been to foster unity in the Security Council on the Syrian issue, according to Mr. Fawzi.
“He [Mr. Annan] was able to unify the international community around a single plan … so you have an international framework that is behind the plan,” he said.
Mr. Fawzi acknowledged that there had been no ‘big signs” of compliance with the plan on the ground, but small ones.
“There are small signs of compliance. Some heavy weapons have been withdrawn, some heavy weapons remain, some violence has receded, some violence continues … there are signs on the ground of movement, albeit slow and small,” he said. The plan demands that the Syrian Government withdraw heavy weapons from civilian areas.
“There are also signs behind the scenes that you do not see … this mediation process by definition is conducted under the radar. We are seeing, for example, the opposition organize itself. The political process should be a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led process. So we are observing, and facilitating at times, the opposition to get together and unite their ranks,” he said.
Major General Robert Mood, the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), had arrived to take command of the mission and more than 50 military and civilian observers had arrived in the country and deployed in the capital, Damascus, and the cities of Homs, Hama, Deraa and Idlib, according to Mr. Fawzi. “I understand that Gen. Mood’s policy is to spread them out as much as possible in the flash points,” he said.
Asked whether Mr. Annan’s mediation was satisfied with the pace of the process, Mr. Fawzi said that there are days when “things are progressing in a satisfactory manner and there are days where we feel that it’s a rough ride – that things are so difficult that we need a lot of patience and perseverance to see the day through.
“However, having said that, even on the days that we feel that there is satisfactory progress, albeit in inches, not in feet or miles, in those days as well, we are horrified by the extent of violence we see on the ground. We have said it time and time again that violence must stop.”
He said that the Syrian authorities had informed the Joint Special Envoy’s office that 98 media organizations had been given visas to enter the country. “We have no way of verifying that,” he added.
The violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 9,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.