New reports suggest that the U.S. and its allies rejected a Russian offer to facilitate Syrian President Bashar Assad’s removal from power in February of 2012.
The Guardian reported Tuesday that Finland’s Marti Ahtissari, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat, was involved in the negotiations less than a year into the Syrian civil war. While meeting with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Ahtissari heard that Russia was willing to provide “an elegant way for Assad to step aside.”
But the U.S., the U.K. and France rejected the offer, “convinced that Assad would be thrown out of office in a few weeks.” (RELATED: Krauthammer Explains How Putin Plans To Undermine Obama)
Back in early 2012, armed resistance to Assad was led by a group of defected officers called the Free Syrian Army. Jabhat al-Nusra, a franchise of al-Qaida, had only carried out a campaign of suicide bombings and had not yet become the dominant force in the growing civil war.
The U.N. was also at the center of negotiations to reach a political solution to the civil war; a month after the Russians reportedly made their offer, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan submitted a plan for a truce which never took place.
In August of 2012, President Barack Obama would announce that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for intervention. A year later, after evidence emerged of Assad gassing unarmed civilians — including children — Russia would once again step in to help remove Assad’s chemical arsenal. That effort destroyed all “declared” Syrian chemical stockpiles, but other chemical attacks have taken place since the final deadline.
Thousands of casualties later, Russia is now in the midst of an effort to bolster Assad’s increasingly embattled regime with its own military forces. (RELATED: Selfies And Spies Prove That Russian Troops Are Fighting In Syria)
As it now stands, the Syrian conflict continues to worsen, with no new peace initiative in sight.
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