UNITED NATIONS - Kofi Annan, UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria, has urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to engage with him as he begins his mission aimed at finding a way to end the escalating Syrian crisis.
The former U.N. chief said that he expects to go to strife-torn Syria soon, while acknowledging that he is taking on a “very difficult assignment”, one that is a “tough challenge.
Annan, who was U.N. Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006 and is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, urged President Assad to engage with him and called on the international community to unite behind his mediation effort.
“So, one, single, unitary process. And it is when the international community speaks with one voice that that voice is powerful, and we should pool our efforts and work together. I am determined to work with everybody, and I am going to consult broadly, with all actors, and I think I am well on the way in that direction,” Annan said.
"If we are going to succeed, it is extremely important that we all accept that there should be one process of mediation," Annan told reporters on Wednesday after meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters in New York.
"When you have more than one, and people take their own initiatives, the parties play with mediators," Annan said. "If one mediator says something that they don't want, they go to the other. (We need) one single unity process and it is one that the international community speaks with one voice."
Ban Ki-moon warned that the situation in Syria has grown “increasingly desperate.” He said he has asked his predecessor to go next to Cairo to meet with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil ElAraby, then to see other leaders in the region, and on to Damascus as soon as possible.
Ban urged the Syrian authorities to extend their full cooperation to the Annan mission, and he expressed his disappointment that his humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, has not yet been allowed into Syria despite promises from the government that she would be welcome.
“I take this opportunity to remind the Syrian authorities of their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and I call on them once again to work toward a peaceful, democratic solution for the Syrian people,” Ban said.
Earlier Wednesday, Valerie Amos expressed her “deep disappointment” that Syrian authorities are blocking her request to enter the country. The Secretary-General wants her to visit to assess the situation in the country, particularly in Homs, which has been enduring a government military offensive and rising death toll for weeks.
Earlier efforts in the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution supporting an Arab League plan to end the crisis failed when Russia and China vetoed the measure, saying it called for regime change.
The United Nations top political officer, Lynn Pascoe, said this week that the death toll from the nearly year-long government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters is now “certainly well over 7,500” people, including women and children.