Geopolitics

'Tricked' In Libya - Kofi Annan On Why Russia And China Won’t Budge On Syria

In an interview with Le Monde, Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, concedes that his mission has so far been a failure. He speaks frankly about Russia and China, but also suggests more focus on Iran and others in coming clean on their i

Kofi Annan during his trip to Syria in March (FreedomHouse2)
Kofi Annan during his trip to Syria in March (FreedomHouse2)
Nathalie Nougayrede

Kofi Annan continues his efforts to broker a peace deal in Syria, with a meeting Monday in Damascus with President Bashar Al-Assad. In an exclusive interview published Sunday in Le Monde, Annan speaks with notable frankness about why his mission has not succeeded, including a lack of trust from Moscow and Beijing and not enough attention on Tehran's intentions.

LE MONDE: Syria has been plagued by violence for the past 16 months, and things seem to be getting worse. By some counts, there have been 16,000 deaths, there are 1.5 million people in need of humanitarian aid and 100,000 have fled to neighboring countries.
KOFI ANNAN: The crisis started 16 months ago, but I only got involved three months ago. We made important efforts to try and deal with the situation peacefully and politically. Clearly, we haven't succeeded. And there is no guarantee that we will eventually succeed. Have we thought about alternatives? Have we put other options on the table? That's what I told the UN Security Council, adding that the mission was limited in time and so was my own role.

The statement on "political transition" in Syria drafted on June 30 in Geneva doesn't include a deadline. Doesn't that give Bashar Al-Assad another opportunity to buy time?
We didn't include a deadline in order to underline the fact that the Syrians themselves have to lead the process. We don't want to impose anything, nothing unrealistic. A deadline can only result from negotiations.

You seem to be banking on Russia's influence. What makes you think Russia has any incentive to "produce" a transition in Syria?
Is there an alternative? Russia, like many other countries involved in this case, has interests in Syria and in the region. If you agree that there are also common interests, in the medium and long term, then the question becomes: how do we protect those interests?

More than anything we must think of the Syrians and those who live in the region. I hope reason will prevail, at least regarding the protection of the interests of different states. In this case, it is in Russia's and other countries' interest to find a way of working together.

Is the most realistic scenario to have Russians push for a change in policy in Syria, while making sure that the security apparatus remains heavily linked to them?
Many factors are at play here. Events are created by many actors. Russia has influence, but I'm not sure events will be determined by Russia alone.

Are you referring to Iran?
Iran is an actor and so it should be a part of the solution. It has influence and we cannot ignore that. (Westerns powers refused to have Iran take par in the June 30 action group.)

What strikes me is that there are so many comments made about Russia, while Iran isn't mentioned; and more importantly, few things are said about other countries sending arms, money and weighing in on the situation on the ground. All these countries pretend they want a peaceful solution, but they take individual and collective actions that go against the meaning of the Security Council resolutions. The fact that everyone is focusing solely on the Russians makes them very irritated.

The Syrian opposition thinks that the Geneva statement makes too many concessions, particularly to Russia.
It's a shame that the opposition reacted this way. The Geneva statement was written by a group in which 80% of countries belong to the friends of Syria group (on July 6 they called for Bashar Al-Assad's departure from power.) That's why it's odd to claim that the opposition was "betrayed" or "sold out."

Without a real truce, does it make sense to have about 300 UN observers on the ground?
People say that the unarmed observers weren't able to stop the violence, but that was never their role! They went into Syria to see whether both sides were respecting their pledge to stop the violence.

In Syria, what's left of the "responsibility to protect," a concept you helped create as UN Secretary General after the Bosnian war and the Rwandan genocide?
Honestly, the way the "responsibility to protect" was used in Libya created a problem for the concept. The Russians and the Chinese believe they were tricked. They had agreed on a UN resolution, which was then transformed into a process of regime change, which wasn't the initial goal according to these countries. Whenever we talk about Syria, there's that elephant in the room.

Can military defections, especially that of General Tlass, be a result of diplomacy?
We've been reading reports on defections and the most recent case involves a very important figure, but it's hard to determine what triggered these decisions.

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photo - FreedomHouse2

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Society

A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.


Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?


The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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