Speaking at UBC, Kofi Annan says crisis in Syria may explode beyond borders

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan entered the room at University of British Columbia on Tuesday and the cloud of his surprising departure from his envoy role in Syria followed him to the podium. “When I took the job, even I said that it was impossible…” Annan commented.

Yet Annan affirmed his belief in the possibility of successful international intervention in the Syrian Civil War – but not in the way many perceive to be the right action. “I believe still,” he said, “that there is no military solution to the crisis.”

Once the world’s leading diplomats, he declared that a political settlement would be the only way stability could be accomplished.

With the world fixated on two factions - the armed rebels and the governing forces of Al-Assad - Annan recognized that the presence of other substantial minority groups means that military intervention could not occur. “The Kurds, Druze, Assyrians, Christians, and others, they are all part of the society without representation”.

“We need to be very careful with this situation,” he said, “as Syria is not Libya: Libya imploded, Syria will not implode; Syria will, if things don’t progress, explode beyond its borders.”

Why did Annan leave his post of U.N. – Arab League envoy to Syria? He pointed his finger at the permanent five veto powers of the U.N. Security Council, in which Russia, China, U.S.A, France, and Britain all must agree on proposals or else resolutions will stall. 

“The media has probably told you that it is always Russia or China who are the problem, but it is the whole council”, he claimed.

With the United States adopting policies to arm the Sunni rebels, they have made it almost impossible for Annan’s hopeful political settlement to gain traction.

Because of this, and the general lack of resolve for a situation that has seen hundreds killed daily, the former envoy’s words will probably ring true for the next few months: 

“It is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Despite this somber tone, Annan is clearly  still a man of optimism, which he attributes to his teenage years in which he saw his Ghana leap into independence.

“I saw that monumental change was always possible, and I have always held that sense”.

After witnessing death, disease, and destruction across the planet as the worlds leading diplomat, Annan’s words should give us hope for the explosive situation in Syria.

Its unfortunate then that UBC's Sauder School of Business, the host of the event, didn't give him the gift of a traditional talking stick any sooner.

"I wish I had this when I was in Syria," Annan said.

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