Annan: Assad may have to leave "in the end," up to Syrians

Annan: Assad may have to leave "in the end," up to Syrians

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have to leave "in the end" as part of a settlement of the year-old conflict in the country, the United Nations-Arab League envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, said Monday in Moscow, dpa reported.

"That is one of the issues the Syrians will have to decide," Annan said, before leaving for Beijing where he plans to seek out support from Chinese leaders for his plan to end the conflict.

"Our effort is to help the Syrians come to the table and find a way out of all this," he said. "It may in the end come to that, but it's not up to me, it's up to the Syrians."

The transcript of his remarks in Moscow to reporters was provided to reporters at UN headquarters in New York. Annan's remarks were the first time Annan himself has indicated that Assad's departure was a possibility.

Annan said that his discussion with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday focused on "starting the political process that will respect the aspirations of the Syrian people and help us resolve the crisis peacefully."

"I had very strong support here in Moscow," he said.

"I took on this job not only to help but, above all, to help the Syrian people. They deserve better," he added.

Annan's six-point plan calls for ending the year-old violence with a UN-supervised ceasefire, unfettered access for humanitarian assistance to Syrians caught in the conflict, release of those detained in the unrest and a start to a Syrian-led inclusive process leading to a multi-party political system.

"But the message I would also like to put out today is that the transformational winds blowing today cannot be easily resisted, or cannot be resisted for long," Annan said.

"The only way to deal with this is through reform, through change - and change that respects democratic principles, individual dignity, the rule of law and human rights."

Annan said Russian leaders are determined to work with him and Syrian parties to bring a peaceful solution to the conflict, which the UN said has killed more than 8,000 people since March 2011.

Annan, a former UN secretary general, said he had called on Moscow recently to support his position and deliver a message to Syria.

"I know they did, and it had a positive impact, and I expect them to continue to work with me in that direction," he said.

Turning to his talks with Syrian government officials on the plan, Annan said a UN observer force would have to be in place in Syria once a ceasefire has been accepted by Damascus and the opposition. He said the Arab League monitoring force would have to leave Syria.

"It is not excluded that a UN observer force may go in to ensure that the parties honor and respect the commitments that they are going to make," he said, adding that the agreement ending the hostilities would be made "very shortly."

He said he had urged Damascus to show a goodwill gesture to the world by accepting a ceasefire, allowing unimpeded humanitarian access and inviting the opposition to start talks on ending the conflict.

Despite the urgent need for a solution to the violence, Annan said setting a deadline or timeline for his diplomatic efforts was "not practical" because both the Syrian government and opposition have yet to endorse his plan.

"But I do agree with you, time is of the essence. This cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely," he said.

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