Kofi Annan on Syria: 'This can't go on forever'

Joint special envoy on Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League Kofi Annan Photo: Reuters

So after weeks of insisting his peace mission is the only game in town, it might be that Kofi Annan is preparing to pack up and leave.

"This can’t go on forever,’’ he told me today, though he insisted his search for an end to the conflict retained international support.

Up to a point, of course.

The divided UN Security Council has ensured there’s never been sufficient pressure applied to President Assad to take what Kofi Annan called again today ``bold steps’’ for peace.

So first America, and now Britain, is casting about for a Plan B.

"We don’t rule anything out,’’ William Hague tells ITV Evening News tonight.

But it is one thing to rule nothing out; quite another to rule something in.

There is no appetite at all for military intervention and a great fear of arming the rebels.

So it’s not so much about a Plan B as applying pressure to President Putin, the only man with any leverage in Damascus.

Putin promised today that he is fully committed to the international effort to stop Syria’s slide into civil war.

(He also insists he’s not selling weapons the regime can use against civilians, but let’s not go into that here).

Putin went on to say Russia is not taking sides.

And that’s the problem. For the west, Syria is all about taking sides. Either for or against Assad. There’s no place in the middle.