Joint Special Envoy on Syrian crisis: Statements

Opening remarks by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan at the Meeting of Action Group on Syria - Geneva

30 June 2012 – Thank you, Secretary-General Ban and Secretary-General Elaraby, and let me thank you also for your unflinching support. I am honoured to serve as your Special Envoy.

Let me begin by thanking you for your presence here today. It sends a signal to the world that you are here to do what must be done, through joint action, to finally deal with the dire situation in Syria. Let me also say how grateful I am for your many expressions of support.

But, dear friends, we should never have even reached this point. Security Council resolutions have been passed, joint statements of determination issued, a peace plan agreed and commitments made. The great and the powerful in the international community have repeatedly expressed their fir m backing and resolve to do what is needed in support of the six-point plan and in support of my mission as Envoy.

Yet, the crisis has deepened, and the six-point plan has not been implemented. Action should clearly have been taken already to ensure implementation – but none has been forthcoming.

The result is that an international crisis of grave severity now looms. The threat of a regional spillover; a new front for the forces of international terrorism; the prospect of ever increasing radicalization and extremism; the spectre of an ever greater slide into sectarian conflict; a violently unstable country filled with weapons – including those of the most insidious kind – and in the midst of one of the most delicately balanced and conflict-torn regions in the world. This is the situation we have allowed to emerge. No one should be in any doubt as to the extreme dangers posed by the conflict – to Syrians, to the region and to the world.

But you are here because there are things you can do. Each of you, in different ways, has influence over the conflict. This is a Syrian problem, with Syrian origins and the primary responsibility for resolving the conflict ultimately lies with Syrians. But the international community, particularly the powers in this room, have an essential supporting role to play. United, you can create the conditions that will enable Syrians to forge their own peaceful political solution. But if you are divided the likelihood of this outcome diminishes.

The international community demonstrated the ability to show unity in April, with the passing of two Security Council resolutions and the deployment of UNSMIS. But this demonstration of unity and the willingness to deploy an instrument in the service of the cessation of violence did not then translate into something more meaningful. While many spoke of united support for one process in support of the Envoy, some simultaneously took national or collective initiatives of their own, undermining the process. This has fuelled uncertainty in Syria, in turn fuelling the flames of violence.

The balance of international and regional power in this crisis is such that no one acting alone can succeed without the cooperation of all players. Without unity between you, any action by one will lead to the opposite reaction by another, thwarting the aims of either side. We have already seen this taking place, and it is the Syrian people that suffer horrendous consequences as long as this goes on.


This is the situation you face, and it leaves you with a clear choice: either unite to secure your common interests; or divide, and surely fail each in your own individual way. Because, in a scenario of open competition between outside powers, the outcome of this crisis will be measured not by gains made but by who suffers least.

Without your unity, your common resolve and your action now, as we heard from the Secretary-General, nobody can win and everyone will lose in some way. It is the Syrian people who will be the greatest victims, and their deaths will be the consequence of not only the acts of killers on the ground but also your inability to bridge the divisions between you.

History is a sombre judge – and it will judge us all harshly if we prove incapable of taking the right path today. The risks of failing to work together are obvious, and the benefits of pursuing a path of collective self-interest are clear.

Collectively, you have the potential to wield tremendous power and to change the direction of this crisis. In the deployment of UNSMIS we saw your capacity for joint action to assist the people of Syria. But to make a real and sustained difference it is time to move your united efforts to another level.

I acknowledge and respect that you have individual interests, many of which diverge and pit you against one another. But unity of purpose is not created by an absence of division – for diverging interests are ubiquitous to collective human endeavours.

Instead, unity and joint action is created by leadership – and by recognition of where one’s best interests truly lie. By being here today, you suggest the intention to show that leadership.

But can you, can we follow through?

As I have said from the beginning, and as endorsed in Security Council resolutions, it is clear that the country must have a democratic and pluralistic future that complies with international standards on human rights and protects the rights of all communities.

This means there has to be a political process and this requires a government of transition, a government of national unity including women and men who are non-reproachable. This also requires a meaningful national dialogue, a constitutional revision process subject to popular approval and free and fair multiparty elections. Functioning institutions that safeguard this process are also essential. There must be a commitment to accountability and to national reconciliation.

There are things that we can do to help a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process begin and to get off the ground. There are things we can do if there is to be any hope of seeing it begin soon. But the way things have been going thus far – we are not helping anyone. Let us break this trend and start being of some use.

With this in mind, let me remind you, remind us, of what we are here to do today. We are here to identify steps and measures to secure full implementation of the six-point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043. We are here to agree on guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. And we are here to agree on actions that each and every one of us must take to turn these objectives into reality on the ground, including consequences for non-compliance.

But this is not a one day effort. We must make agreements today that lead to actions that must be taken forward, collectively and by each of you in the coming days, weeks and months.

I look forward to a productive day. Come together. Work together. And act together to secure your common interests. But, first and foremost, do so to secure the interests of the Syrian people.

Thank you.