Officials looking into UN role in Syria

If Assad falls from power; Syria faces major obstacles


Senior officials looking into the role the U.N. could play in Syria if Bashar Assad falls from power face major obstacles, including a bitter division among world powers and the absence of an opposition leader.


A team of senior U.N. officials led by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson is consulting on the Syrian crisis and studying contingencies, and one possible model might be Afghanistan.


Participants adopted an accord on Dec. 5, 2001, spelling out arrangements for an interim government. The U.N. Security Council swiftly endorsed the power-sharing agreement, and on Dec. 20, 2001, it unanimously authorized a multinational force to assist the new government with security.


Syria: not Afghanistan


Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that in the case of Afghanistan the major powers were united, making for an easier initial transition.


“In the case of Syria, the great powers are fighting,” he said. So “U.N. action is not going to be easy.”


Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, the U.N. Security Council’s veto-wielding permanent members have been split.


Russia, the Assad government’s most powerful ally, and China have vetoed three Security Council resolutions backed by the U.S., Britain and France targeting the regime’s bloody crackdown. The first two resolutions would have condemned Syrian attacks on peaceful protesters but the most recent resolution went further, threatening sanctions if Assad didn’t immediately withdraw heavy weapons from populated areas.


The only thing the five permanent members united to support is the six-point peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, which called for a cease-fire in August and Syrian-led political talks to end the conflict and “meet the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

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