Two days after American war reporter Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer were killed in Homs, Syria, which has become a veritable military target for total destruction by the security forces of President Bashar al-Assad, the United Nations and the League of Arab States announced the appointment of former Secretary-General of the UN and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan to be Joint Special Envoy to Syria late yesterday afternoon.
Annan is being sent on a mission to stop wholesale carnage and the killing of civilians, reminiscent of the siege of Sarajevo 20 years ago. The besieged City of Homs had sustained 20 straight days of shelling before the late Thursday afternoon announcement that yields to the International Community’s impulse to act–to stop indescribable killing, including summary executions and the torture of children–actions that would constitute “crimes against humanity,” according to a UN report authored by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released yesterday.
“The Government has manifestly failed in its responsibility to protect its people. Since November 2011, its forces have committed more widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations. Anti-Government groups have also committed abuses, although not comparable in scale and organization to those carried out by the State.”
–Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Tunisia for a meeting Thursday in Tunis with the Friends of Syria, where more than 70 countries will meet to address the explosive crisis. The Friends of Syria are expected to call for a cease-fire for an escalating civil war which ensued in March 2011.
In her remarks issued in London before her departure for Tunis she said: ”Tunis will be an important opportunity to being turning international consensus into action. We look forward to concrete progress on three fronts: providing humanitarian relief, increasing pressure on the regime, and preparing for a democratic transition. To that end, we hope to see new pledges of emergency assistance for Syrians caught in Assad’s stranglehold and international coordination and diplomatic pressure on Damascus to convince it to allow humanitarian aid to those who need it most…”
Annan’s Syria mission, comes four years after his successful diplomatic assignment in Kenya in 2008, where election related violence erupted resulting in thousands of deaths and more than 600,000 internally displace persons.
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement about Annan’s mission:
“The Special Envoy will provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. He will consult broadly and engage with all relevant interlocutors within and outside Syria in order to end the violence and the humanitarian crisis, and facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people through a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.
Joint statement by the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and of the League of Arab States issued on Feb. 23:
In accordance with the General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/253 of 16 February and following close consultations between Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Nabil ElAraby, the two today announced the appointment of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis.
The Secretaries-General are grateful to Mr. Annan for accepting this important mission at a critical time for the people of Syria. A deputy for the Joint Special Envoy will be chosen from the Arab region.
The Special Envoy will be the high-level representative of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis. The Special Envoy will provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.
The Special Envoy will be guided in this endeavour by the provisions of the General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/253 and the relevant resolutions of the League of Arab States. He will consult broadly and engage with all relevant interlocutors within and outside Syria in order to end the violence and the humanitarian crisis, and facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people through a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.
Annan’s appointment, who is a former Secretary General of the UN and a Nobel Peace laureate, sends a message to the al-Assad regime, that the International Community has called upon one of its’ most consummate envoys in the world today to end a civil war which has dramatically escalated in scale and number of killings during the month of February.
God speed Kofi Annan and to the people of Syria.
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
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