Tuesday, January 16, 2018

World diplomats worry about possible civil war

GENEVA — World powers share a belief that Syria could descend into civil war and plan to map out possible ways to avoid such a disaster for the region, a deputy to international envoy Kofi Annan said Wednesday.

Jean-Marie Guehenno told reporters after privately briefing the U.N. Security Council that diplomats are deeply troubled by Syria's cycle of violence.

"I believe that in the council there's an understanding that any sliding toward full-scale civil war in Syria would be catastrophic, and the Security Council now needs to have that kind of strategic discussion on how that needs to be avoided," Guehenno said in Geneva after speaking to the New York-based Security Council by videoconference.

However, there was no indication that Russia, one of the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, was changing its position on Syria.

Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency Wednesday that "there can be no talk" about a shift in Russia's stance on Syria under foreign pressure.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the worst but most likely scenario is a failure of Annan's peace plan and a spreading conflict that creates "a major crisis" not only in Syria but also regionwide.

The best scenario would be for the Syrian government to immediately start complying with the plan, she said, but that doesn't seem to be "a high probability."

And if Assad refuses to implement it, Rice added, then the Security Council should set aside its differences and up the pressure on Syria with added sanctions.

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