A Peacekeeper Abandons Negotiations in Syria

By on / International Negotiation

On August 2, Kofi Annan announced he was resigning as the special peace envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League. reports Rick Gladstone in the New York Times. Since February, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.N. Secretary General has attempted to negotiate a resolution of the Syrian conflict. The peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that began 17 months ago has since exploded into a civil war.

Over several months, Annan negotiated a six-point proposal that included a call for the Syrian government to withdraw heavy weapons and troops from populated areas and for opposition fighters to disarm. The proposal also detailed a process for political transition that included replacing Assad. On March 27, Assad vowed to abide by the peace plan, but his government never took steps to implement it; nor did the rebels put down their weapons, writes Gladstone.

Annan had received unanimous backing from the Security Council, but Russia and China, which had veto power, opposed additional coercive measures that might have imposed a change of government by outside powers or foreign military intervention. The United States, Britain, and France clashed with Russia and China on the issue.

In a press conference announcing his resignation, Annan criticized world powers for their disunity.

“At a time when… the Syrian people desperately need action – there continues to be finger pointing and name calling in the Security Council,” according to the Times.

Annan said that it would be impossible for anyone to compel the Syrian government and its opposition to take the steps needed to begin a political process “without serious, purposeful and united international pressure,” according to Gladstone. In addition to pointing fingers at international leaders, Annan also blamed the Syrian government for failing to follow through on the plan and Syrian rebels for increasing militance.

As Annan announced his resignation, the United Nations General Assembly was preparing to vote on a largely symbolic resolution demanding the Syrian government’s compliance with his plan. In response to Annan’s views, a White House spokesperson blamed Russia and China for failing to support resolutions that would hold Assad to the Annan plan. Additionally, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would vote against the General Assembly resolution on Syria, calling it biased against the Syrian government.

Annan’s resignation underscores the importance of securing a mandate to negotiate from one’s constituents before engaging in a significant negotiation or conflict resolution effort. In his article, “Great Deal – But How Will It Play at the Office?” for the October 2006 issue of the Negotiation newsletter, Tufts University professor Jeswald W. Salacuse explains that you can increase your independence as well as the chances of buy-in from all parties by first sitting down with colleagues and partners to gain authorization to negotiate on key deal terms. It could be that insufficient pre-negotiation with U.N. Security Council members prior to the drafting of Annan’s proposal contributed to the international conflict over the terms of the deal and its implementation.


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2 Responses to “A Peacekeeper Abandons Negotiations in Syria”

  • Carlos A. P.

    In fact, the first step to be undertaken in a negotiation is to establish if there are possibilities for it, because if not, the process could be end up with a proposal viewed not as a way to resolve the conflict but even as a sign of threat by the other(s) party(ies) that could really make worse the conflict.

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