UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan has quit his post, complaining of a lack of support and the increasing militarisation of the conflict.
Mr Annan, a former UN secretary-general, headed up diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire from Syrian president Bashar al Assad’s regime.
Even as he stepped down the crisis in Syria deepened, with reports of at least 70 deaths in separate attacks by Syrian security forces in Damascus and Hama.
Mr Annan’s much-lauded six-point peace plan – first introduced in April – was not adhered to by either side in the conflict.
“I did not receive all the support that the cause deserved,” Mr Annan told a hastily scheduled press conference in Geneva.
“I accepted this task, which some called ‘Mission Impossible’ – for I believed it was a sacred duty to do whatever was in my power to help the Syrian people find a peaceful solution to this bloody conflict.”
But he added that “continuous finger-pointing and name-calling” in the UN Security Council had hindered his attempts to implement his peace plan.
“The increasing militarisation on the ground and the lack of unanimity in the Security Council fundamentally changed my role,” the former UN chief said.
But he predicted that Mr Assad would go “sooner or later” and did not rule out his successor having more luck or success.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon earlier announced “with deep regret” the resignation of Mr Annan, who was named to the post on February 23.
“I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Mr Annan for the determined and courageous efforts he has made as the Joint Special Envoy for Syria,” Mr Ban said.
Within hours of the announcement, evidence was emerging of further bloodshed in Syria.
The Reuters news agency reported that 50 people were killed by Syrian forces during clashes with rebel fighters in the city.
And at least 20 people were reported killed when Syrian security forces fired three mortar rounds at a Palestinian camp in Damascus.
Witnesses claimed the mortars hit a busy street as people were preparing for the Ramadan meal to break their fast.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told Sky News that Mr Annan’s resignation showed the peace process was not working and that more sanctions were needed.
“The Annan plan worked very hard at it, but it hasn’t worked because we’ve got this appalling bloodshed, we’ve got this slaughter,” he said.
“I think what we need to do is ramp things up. We need to pass resolutions at the United Nations to put further pressure on Syria.”
But he said that a military approach would not be right in the case of Syria.
“Syria is not Libya, it’s a different situation… but there’s a lot more pressure we can put on,” he said.
Mr Cameron earlier Thursday locked horns over Syria with Russian president Vladimir Putin in a meeting at Downing Street.
The British leader tried to push the former KGB spy to take a tougher line on Syria, Russia’s firmest foothold in the Middle East, and stop blocking Western-backed resolutions aimed at stepping up pressure on Mr Assad.
“Obviously we don’t agree, but there is some common ground emerging. The Russians can see what is happening in Syria is not good for the Syrian people,” Mr Cameron said.
A Western UN Security Council diplomat said: “Annan was dealt a very difficult hand which he played as well as anyone could have done.
“The lack of Security Council unity made it almost impossible for him to do his job.
“Western Allies still believe that the plan he formed is still the only way to proceed in Syria, with or without Annan at the helm.”
Mr Annan’s resignation, which is effective as of August 31, comes as the civil war in Syria spirals further out of control.
Syrian rebels have bombarded a military air base in the northern city of Aleppo using a tank captured from government troops.
And a rights watchdog reported dozens of people were killed in a raid near the capital Damascus.
The Aleppo report was one of the first indications the rebels are starting to deploy the heavy weapons they have managed to capture in the past weeks from the Syrian army.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebel-seized tank shelled the Menagh military airport outside Aleppo, which the regime has used to launch attacks on rebel positions in the surrounding area.
Later, a nearby village was shelled by government forces out of that same airbase.
The report, however, represents an escalation in the battles between the two sides.
Up to this point, rebel forces have suffered because of a huge disparity in armaments with Syria’s well-armed military.
The United Nations earlier confirmed that rebels battling president Bashar al Assad’s regime now have heavy armour.
But the Syrian army still has many more tanks and armoured vehicles than the rebels and there was no indication that Thursday’s attack on the airbase was particularly effective.
Rebel forces in Aleppo have already captured several neighbourhoods in the past fortnight – and they have held them despite ground and air assaults by the government.
With its proximity to rebel-friendly Turkey just to the north, Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has enormous strategic importance to the opposition.
Further south, a security forces raid killed 43 people, some of whom were tortured and executed, near Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Regime forces entered the Jdaidet Artuz district on Wednesday and arrested around 100 young people who were taken to a school and tortured,” it said.
“On Thursday morning after the operation the bodies of 43 people were recovered. Some of them had been summarily executed.”
On Friday, a vote is set in the UN General Assembly on a resolution drafted by Arab League countries. It calls for Mr Assad to step down and turn over power to a transitional government.
Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/968133