ALEPPO — Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is quitting as international peace envoy for Syria, frustrated by “finger-pointing” at the United Nations while the armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad becomes increasingly bloody.
As battles raged today in Syria’s second city Aleppo between rebel fighters and government forces using war planes and artillery, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced in New York that Annan had said he would go at the end of the month.
“Kofi Annan deserves our profound admiration for the selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments,” Ban said. Talks were under way to find a successor.
Annan’s mission, centred on an April ceasefire that never took hold, has looked irrelevant as fighting has intensified in Damascus, Aleppo and elsewhere.
Annan blamed “finger-pointing and name-calling” at the UN Security Council for his decision to quit but suggested his successor may have better luck.
“The world is full of crazy people like me. So don’t be surprised if Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can find someone who can do a better job than me,” Annan said.
Syria expressed regret that Annan was going. Russia, a key ally of Damascus, also said it regretted the decision, while Britain, which wants Assad to resign, said it showed that the mediation process was not working.
The White House said Annan’s decision to quit had highlighted Assad’s failure to meet his promise to abide by the ceasefire plan, and added that it continued to believe that “Assad must go”.
In Syria, the fight for Aleppo, the latest battlefield, intensified. Rebels turned the gun of a captured tank against government forces, shelling a military airbase north of the city.
Assad’s troops meanwhile bombarded the strategic Salaheddine district in Aleppo itself with tank and artillery fire supported by combat aircraft while rebels tried to consolidate their hold on areas they have seized. (Reuters)