Kofi Annan is quitting as UN-Arab League peace envoy for Syria, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has announced, as the 17-month-old conflict spiralled further out of control.
Ban announced "with deep regret" the resignation of Annan on Thursday, who was named to the post on February 23. Earlier, Annan had told Ban and Nabil El Araby, the general-secretary of the Arab League, of his intention not to renew his mandate when it expires on August 31, 2012.
Annan cited "finger-pointing and name-calling" in the 15-nation Security Council as one of the reasons for his decision to step down, at a news conference in Geneva and in an article published in the UK daily Financial Times on Thursday.
Council diplomats have said privately that the US and Gulf Arab states have become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks with what they saw as Annan's determined commitment to diplomacy at a time when they believe all avenues for dialogue with Assad have been exhausted.
Ban said in the statement that he and El Araby were in discussions on appointing a successor to Annan. "Kofi Annan deserves our profound admiration for the selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments," Ban said.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN ambassador, was quick to react, suggesting to reporters outside the Security Council in New York that Moscow was disappointed that Annan was bowing out.
"We understand that it's his decision," Churkin told reporters. "We regret that he chose to do so. We have supported very strongly Kofi Annan's efforts. He has another month to go, and I hope this month is going to be used as effectively as possible under these very difficult circumstances."
Churkin added he was encouraged that Ban was looking for a successor to Annan. Churkin suggested that Western powers that opposed "reasonable and balanced proposals" in the Security Council undermined Annan's peace efforts from the start.