Mr. Annan said after the meeting that the adopted plan could take a year to implement – a long stretch of time that seems almost certain to witness more violence, especially since the plan includes no incentives for or constraints on the warring factions.
Annan’s original plan had implicitly ruled out participation in any political transition by Mr. Assad and his closest lieutenants associated with more than a year of horrendous bloodletting. But Russia stood by its objections to any international action compelling Assad to step down.
The new plan allowed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to insist in remarks after the meeting that Assad is closer than ever to falling from power. Assad “will still have to go, he will never pass the mutual consent test given the blood on his hands,” Secretary Clinton said.
But she added that it is now up to Russia and China, who have stood in the way of other international initiatives on Syria, to work from the plan they joined in adopting Saturday to ease Assad out of power.
“It is now incumbent on Russia and China to show Assad the writing on the wall,” she said. Clinton had met one-on-one with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Saint Petersburg Friday, but had been unable to win Russia’s acceptance of even an implicit call for Assad to give up power.
The vagueness of the plan adopted Saturday suggested that world powers decided it was better to have a weak outcome than to announce their failure to come together over a crisis that many leaders and regional experts have warned for months could end up sparking a broader conflict.