GENEVA (Reuters) - International envoy Kofi Annan is still trying to forge a political solution to the Syria crisis despite being made a scapegoat for the failure of the two sides to agree, a source close to the mediation effort said on Friday.
Annan and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were meeting in London on Friday to discuss the future of mediation efforts and the U.N. observer mission, and the Syria “Action Group” may meet again soon, but not at ministerial level, the source said.
Moscow, Geneva and New York have all been proposed as venues for the next talks on the “roadmap for a political settlement” agreed by major powers in Geneva on June 30, but there is still no definite plan, the source said.
It was encouraging to see opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad coming together to discuss the future, the source said, adding that Annan, who is the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy, was not believed to be in touch with top Syrian defector Manaf Tlas at the moment.
“We urge them to hurry up and become as cohesive as necessary and to sit down with the interlocutor on the other side,” he said.
Efforts to resolve the crisis by diplomatic means took a big step backward earlier this month when the U.N. Security Council failed to pass a resolution on Syria, which the source described as “a train wreck” for crisis diplomacy.
For the third time, Russia and China vetoed a Western-sponsored resolution over its perceived ultimate purpose to remove Assad, despite what the source said were signs of “flexibility and compromise” which Annan had detected in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
The Security Council did however extend the UNSMIS observer mission in Syria for a month, although its length was halved because of the worsening security situation. It also asked Annan to report back after 15 days, meaning that he will brief world powers on Syria next Thursday or Friday.
“We have 23 days left and the clock is ticking. We hear it ticking very loudly at the United Nations...because it means that the Security Council could very well decide on Aug 19 not to renew UNSMIS,” the source said.
The United States said it feared a massacre in Aleppo after Assad’s forces launched ground and air bombardments in preparation for an onslaught against rebels in Syria’s commercial capital.
The continued violence and fluid situation was forcing Annan to “assess and reassess” his tactics, and he was watching the situation around Aleppo with great concern, the source said.
“We have seen an escalation in the fighting which means the parties are still not willing and ready to talk,” he said.
Asked if Annan might step down, the source said it the international community, not Annan, that had failed to resolve the crisis so far.
“They have failed to come to terms with this problem. They have failed to implement a plan that they committed to. This is not about Kofi Annan. This is about a plan that was adopted by the international community. The international community has failed. The parties on the ground have failed.”
“It’s very often in any conflict that the mediator becomes the scapegoat. And that’s what’s happening in this conflict.”
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich