Will the Annan Plan work this time?
Only eight years ago, when one was talking about the Annan Plan, it was surely about former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s detailed blueprint aiming to unite the divided island of Cyprus and establishing a new partnership between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
The significance of Annan’s well-crafted plan did even not erode though it became null and void as a result of Greek Cypriots’ rejection in a referendum on April 24, 2004. Kofi Annan became the sole international mediator who could succeed in bringing two communities to vote for a unification plan, so to say, in the form of self-determination, for the first time in the history of Cyprus.
The seasoned diplomat now appears with another peace plan named after him. Tasked by the United Nations Security Council as the joint envoy of the U.N. and Arab League, Kofi Annan is now touring the region and capitals of permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to get support for his six-point proposals to end the violence in Syria and to launch a new political process to form a new government in this ravaged country.
His meticulous work bore fruit yesterday as Damascus announced it accepted the Annan Plan. The success of his plan can only be proven if it would fully and unconditionally be implemented by Damascus. Many heavyweights already welcomed the development with Russia depicting the Annan Plan “as the last chance before a civil war.”
It’s no surprise that Annan’s mission has caused a lot of question marks in Ankara especially as it left Bashar al-Assad’s role in future Syrian governments open.
Under current conditions, there is no way to think of a Syria without al-Assad, as the disobedient leader increased his control in the entire country and repelled Free Syrian Army’s attacks. In addition, despite strong efforts from both Turkey and Qatar, the Syrian opposition continues to fail in forming a united stand against Syria.
In this light, Sunday’s meeting of the Friends of Syria group became highly questionable. China and Russia already announced they wouldn’t join the group’s meeting though they had been invited. For a Turkish diplomat, however, Damascus’ acceptance of the plan will not change the significance of the Istanbul meeting slated for April 1. On the contrary, it will continue to stand as a platform imposing pressure on Damascus to fully implement the plan and not to delay it.
The most important difference between Annan’s mission and the Friends of Syria group is on al-Assad’s role in the future of Syria. Ankara’s early estimations that al-Assad would be toppled in few months’ time have already been proven to be wrong. Updating its estimations, it now believes al-Assad will be gone from office in a time span of one or two years. The Turkish government had better get used to living with al-Assad for some more years.