Turtle Bay
Kofi Annan on Russian support for Syria mediation, March 26
of remarks by UN/LAS Special Envoy Kofi Annan at a media stakeout in Moscow
(Sheremetyevo Airport, 26 March 2012)

KOFI ANNAN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m happy to be here with you this afternoon.

As you know, I’m here to discuss the Syrian crisis with the Russian authorities. Yesterday, I had very good meetings with the President and with the Foreign Minister.

We discussed the urgency of the situation, the need to stop the killing and violence and to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need unimpededly, and, above all, to start the political process that will respect the aspirations of the Syrian people and help us resolve the crisis peacefully.

I think there’s no doubt, when you look at the pictures we see on our television and on the front of our newspapers, why we should work as fast and as hard as we can to resolve this conflict.

I took on this job not only to help but, above all, to help the Syrian people. They deserve better. They are the ones who are caught in the middle, and I think it is important that we work with the government and the opposition to stop the fighting. As you know, I have a six-point plan on the table, which the Security Council has endorsed, and I was happy that the Council acted unanimously in supporting the statement.

I had very strong support here in Moscow. And I leave for China this evening, and I do expect to get similar support.

I think what is important is that, as an international community, we work together to resolve this conflict. But the message I would also like to put out today is that the transformational winds blowing today cannot be easily resisted, or cannot be resisted for long. The only way to deal with this is through reform, through change – and change that respects democratic principles, individual dignity, the rule of law and human rights.

I will take your questions.

QUESTION: We know the position of Russia and China. Saudi Arabia and Qatar say they want to send weapons, send foreign troops. Do you think these statements are useful, constructive? As for the so-called “foreign opposition,” they reject any negotiations with the government. Is this position also constructive?

KOFI ANNAN: Let me say that when you have this sort of conflict, you have people on either side of the divide. What is important is that today the Council as a whole has come together to support a peace process which I am leading. And all the countries you’ve mentioned are part of the United Nations, and I expect everyone to respect this process and for us to go on looking for a peaceful solution.

I think we have seen in that region and around the world lots of conflicts which have led to serious brutal disruptions, that have had negative impact on lives of people, and that is what we need to try and avoid.

QUESTION: (BBC): From the conversations you’ve had with Russian officials, do you have the impression that Moscow is ready now to put pressure on President Assad to make peace? And if so, in what ways?

KOFI ANNAN: I think the statement yesterday from the President was quite clear – that they are determined to work with me and the parties to bring about a peaceful solution. I think the President’s statement yesterday about this being perhaps the only chance for Syria to get a peaceful settlement was an important statement, and in my own discussions with the Foreign Minister as well – they are prepared to work with me, work with me not only in supporting the approach and the plans I’ve put on the table but also encouraging the parties to move in the same direction and work with me in order to settle this issue peacefully.

QUESTION: (Deutsche Welle): A follow-up to this question. Can you tell us more about concrete steps that Russia is ready to take to support your mission?

KOFI ANNAN: I think they have already taken concrete steps. For example, in my negotiations with the Syrian authorities there was a period when I called on the Russian authorities to support my position and deliver messages to Syria, which I know they did, and it had a positive impact, and I expect them to continue to work with me in that direction.

QUESTION: (RT): From what you know, have there already been weapons and trainings given to the opposition from abroad? If so, where do they come from?

KOFI ANNAN: Well, there may well be weapons and other materiel going in but I can’t tell you where they are coming from. And the governments in the region and elsewhere that I’ve spoken to have told me they are not doing that yet.

QUESTION: (Interfax): Do you think that President Assad should resign in the nearest future?

KOFI ANNAN: That is one of the issues the Syrians will have to decide. Our effort is to help the Syrians come to the table and find a way out of all this. It may in the end come to that, but it’s not up to me, it’s up to the Syrians.

QUESTION: (Reuters): Did the Russian authorities at any level promise that they would pressure Assad?

KOFI ANNAN: I think they do have influence, and they have indicated they will use that influence to help me constructively.

QUESTION: (Reuters): Can you tell us some of the details about the peacekeeping forces that are envisioned in this plan, some of the details of how it will work out on the ground?

KOFI ANNAN: I’m not sure I will be able to go into the details of the peacekeeping plan, but, as you know, the Arab League had an observer mission there, which unfortunately had to be pulled out. And as part of the discussions we are having with the Syrian authorities, it is not excluded that a UN observer force may go in to ensure that the parties honor and respect the commitments that they are going to make. We hope that they would agree to cessation of hostilities very shortly, and if that happens, we will have to be on the ground to monitor and ensure that all sides are respecting the agreement. Obviously, we’ve asked the government to take the initial steps as a goodwill gesture to its own people and to the international community to demonstrate that it is determined to move ahead and accept cessation of hostilities and move on to allow unimpeded humanitarian access and then come to the table to talk with the opposition.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that in its discussions with you there were no mentions of timetables or schedules. But when you look at what’s happening on the ground in Syria, time is of the essence. How much time do you think is left to negotiate a peace settlement?

KOFI ANNAN: [The deadline is] yesterday. I think it is urgent to move ahead. In fact, I started this press conference by stressing the urgency of the situation. But it is not practical to put out timetables and timelines when you haven’t gotten an agreement from the parties, and that is what we’re waiting on, as speedily as we can. But I do agree with you, time is of the essence. This cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely. As I have told the parties on the ground, they cannot resist the transformational winds that are blowing. They have to accept that reforms have to come, change has to come, and that is the only way to deal with the situation.