Report: Annan Seeks Syria Contact Group Comprising Iran, Russia

Posted on: June 06, 2012 at 23:56
U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan will on Thursday propose that the western powers, Russia and China form a new international group to press President Bashar al-Assad into political talks to end the deadly crisis, diplomats said.

Annan could even call for Iran and other key Middle East nations to be let into the so-called Contact Group when he makes the proposal to the U.N. Security Council, sources said.

With Annan's six-point peace plan for Syria floundering, he wants the west, Russia and China to join together to increase pressure on Assad to start talks on a process that could force him out of power, diplomats said.

Assad has not fully carried out any of the six points and the Houla massacre last month has heightened fears that the conflict is spiraling out of control and could cross into neighboring states. Syrian activists say more than 13,500 have been killed in the past 15 months.

Annan is considering proposing that Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia join the permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- in the group, the Le Monde and Washington Post newspapers reported.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for a meeting on a similar line.

''We think it is necessary to call a meeting of countries that truly have an influence on various opposition groups,'' Lavrov said in Beijing, citing the five Security Council powers, the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey and Iran.

The inclusion of Iran could prove controversial. The Tehran government is a key ally of Syria, but the United States could object to its involvement.

A U.N. diplomat said reports of Annan's proposals were ''well based,'' and that Annan would be proposing new ideas to the Council on Thursday because his own plan is ''on life support.''

''We need to bind Russia into some sort of transition strategy on Syria,'' said the diplomat, who highlighted the growing contacts with Russia.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has been in Paris, Berlin and Beijing in the past week. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had talks with Lavrov, and Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague has also been to Moscow.

Key leaders are expected to hold a meeting on Syria on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico at the end of next week.

Diplomats said they would wait for Annan's proposals on Thursday before commenting publicly.

''We need to see what the scope is for having an agreed policy about the next steps in Syria,'' said one U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

''The major problem is whether there is some agreement among the key players -- obviously that is the permanent five, it includes Turkey, perhaps it includes Iran, perhaps it includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and people like this -- on a transition,'' the diplomat said.

''There will be question marks about the countries that take part,'' said another diplomat. On top of Iran, there would be questions about whether the Syrian government and opposition would be represented.

Source:Agence France Presse
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