Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab
League special envoy who for months struggled to bring peace to
Syria, resigned Thursday, blaming divisions at the UN Security
Council and escalating violence.
"The increasing militarisation on the ground and the lack of unanimity in the Security Council fundamentally changed my role," Annan told reporters in Geneva. "At a time when we need - when the Syrian people desperately need action - there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council."
"Without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to compel the Syrian government ... and also the opposition, to take the steps necessary to begin a political process," he added.
His resignation, which goes into effect August 31 when the mandate for his mission expires, was announced by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban, who is discussing a successor with the Arab League, said the "persistent division" within the Security Council had become "an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult."
"The hand extended to turn away from violence in favour of dialogue and diplomacy has not been taken, even though it still remains the best hope for the people of Syria," Ban said.
Syria allies Russia and China have vetoed three UN resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on the uprising and threatening sanctions.
The United States blamed Russia and China for Annan's resignation.
"His resignation highlights the failure in the United Nations Security Council of Russian and China to support meaningful resolutions against Assad that would have held Assad accountable for his failure to abide by the Annan plan," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton regretted Annan's resignation, which she said "makes clear how unfortunate it has been that the UN Security Council was unable to agree to a resolution."
Annan, who was appointed on February 24, drafted a six-point plan to end the conflict. It was the only such peace plan endorsed internationally and accepted by al-Assad.
A key component - a ceasefire announced on April 12 - was violated on a near-daily basis. The plan also called for the government to withdraw heavy weapons and soldiers from populated areas.
"I accepted this task, which some called 'Mission Impossible' - for I believed it was a sacred duty to do whatever was in my power to help the Syrian people find a peaceful solution to this bloody conflict," Annan said.
"The increasing militarisation on the ground and the lack of unanimity in the Security Council fundamentally changed my role," he added.
He said the bloodshed was continuing "most of all because of the Syrian government's intransigence, and continuing refusal to implement the six-point plan, and also because of the escalating military campaign of the opposition - all of which is compounded by the disunity of the international community."
The opposition reiterated its criticism that Annan was too soft on al-Assad.
Burhan Ghalioun, a former head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), said Annan "did the right thing" by resigning.
"He said few weeks ago that his efforts were no longer effective and that his plan has failed in achieving any success," Ghalioun told
dpa from Paris.
The Syrian government expressed "regret" at Annan's and blamed the failure of his peace plan on countries who back the rebels, a reference to Western and Arab powers, as well as Turkey. It said it was still committed to implementing the peace plan.
Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters he hoped Annan could use "effectively the remaining time to pursue his efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria."
British Prime Minister David Cameron urged the UN Security Council to increase pressure on the regime.
"I think what we need to do is actually ramp things up. We need to pass resolutions at the United Nations to put further pressure on Syria," Cameron told Sky News.
The violence has escalated, spreading to Syria's commercial hub of Aleppo, where al-Assad's troops launched an offensive to recapture rebel-held areas six days ago.
At least 60 people were killed on Thursday across the country, mainly in Aleppo and the central city of Homs, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Rebels used a tank captured from government forces to attack the Menagh airbase north of Aleppo near the border with Turkey, which is used by the military to shell rebel positions.
Activists also said there were clashes in Damascus, where at least 70 people were wounded in a government attack on the cental area of al-Tadamon. About 3,000 people fled the district.
Government forces have been carrying out house-to-house raids in Damascus after a bombing last month killed four top security officials from al-Assad's inner circle.
More than 20,000 people have died in the uprising that started in March 2011, the opposition says.
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