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Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was in Vancouver promoting his latest book. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was in Vancouver promoting his latest book. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

INTERVIEW

Kofi Annan holds out hope for diplomacy regarding Syrian crisis Add to ...

It went on to explain what we mean by political transition, indicating that there should be an executive, an interim government, with full executive powers. There should be security forces with competent and top leadership. Institutions and governments should function, so that things don’t collapse. We saw what happened in Iraq and nobody wanted that.

When they left Geneva and went to New York, I had hoped that the council would endorse this approach. In the end, regardless of what happens, or which side believes it has won, they have to sit and do this, because the mosaic of Syria is such that one group cannot claim they have won, that they are going to dominate the others. There has to be power-sharing. There has to be an arrangement that protects minorities and other groups, and creates a pluralistic society that would be harmonious and stable.

Q: But that seems light years away, doesn’t it?

A: The way they are going, everyone seems determined to fight. I think the strategic choice has been made that they will get more from the battlefield. It is that mindset, that logic, that one has to work at. To switch it, you have to offer an alternative, discuss with the Syrians a framework for a new political dispensation that will look after the interests of each group.

Q: But when you say discuss with the Syrians, who are the Syrians? Who do you talk to?

A: Yes, yes. I think this has something we will have to discuss, obviously, with the opposition as well as people in government who are technocrats. Not everybody in Syria has blood on their hands, not everybody in the government. There will be people you can talk to.

Q: It must be hard to find those people.

A: The unfortunate situation is that now you have two powerful sides fighting each other, although this is a movement that started from the grass-roots, with people asking for their political rights, asking for their human rights. Now the emphasis is on those with guns, and the political and peaceful voices are almost being squeezed out. And on top of that, we talk of Alawite and Sunni. There are other groups in Syria. You have the Christians, you have the Druze, you have the Kurds, you have the Assyrians. These are all people in the middle, wondering what happens to them.

Q: Given all this, would you say your successor, Lakhdar Brahimi, is on a fool’s errand. Would you go that far?

A: No. I think it’s good he took on the job. As he himself said, it’s near impossible, but I think it’s good he took it on. We need to encourage the peaceful voices. We need to let them know, however hard it is, one is trying to find a peaceful way out. Right now, all the attention is focused on those with guns. That brings its own problems. We need to find a way of bringing in the peaceful elements. And I think he may be lucky, that there could be shifts in the dynamics of the situation opening up the possibilities of settlement, but he also needs the support of a united Security Council, and real support, not a passive one.

Q: But with Russia and China taking their positions, that’s not there.

A: For the moment, no, but it could come, if there is leadership.

Q: I was struck by the disenchantment of a young protester, as Mr. Brahimi, arrived. He said the UN envoys will do nothing, because they have no power, spending their time “in meaningless meetings with regime officials, or opposition figures who have no presence on the ground.” Is there some truth to that?

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