The announcement came as Syria braced for a major armed clash between the government and rebels in the contested city of Aleppo, U.N. officials said. “We have reason to believe the main battle is about to start,” the United Nations’ peacekeeping chief told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.
At an impromptu news conference in Geneva, Annan said the international community and Security Council had not supported his efforts to enforce a cease-fire and bring about a transition of power.
“When the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council,” the former U.N. secretary general said, according to a transcript. “It is impossible for me or anyone to compel the Syrian government and also the opposition to take the steps to bring about the political process.”
Annan’s sudden resignation was announced in New York by Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general. He said that he had accepted Annan’s request to leave with “deep regret” and that he will mount a search for a replacement.
In announcing Annan’s resignation, the U.N. chief faulted both the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition for refusing to embrace Annan’s six-point peace plan. He also accused the Security Council of not providing Annan with the political backing he needed to succeed.
“Tragically, the spiral of violence in Syria is continuing,” Ban said in a statement released from U.N. headquarters. “The hand extended to turn away from violence in favor of dialogue and diplomacy — as spelled out in the six-point plan — has not been not taken, even though it still remains the best hope for the people of Syria.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who called Annan Thursday to thank him for his service, said in a statement that he “worked tirelessly to try to build consensus” to end bloodshed in Syria, but “the Security Council was blocked from giving him key tools to advance his efforts.”
With the Security Council deadlocked over Syria, the U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote Friday morning on a resolution denouncing the Assad regime for unleashing heavy-weapon attacks on the cities of Damascus and Aleppo.
On Thursday morning, Syrian rebels attacked a military air base about 20 miles north of Aleppo with captured tanks, perhaps the first time rebels have attempted a sophisticated assault with heavy weaponry and a clear sign that the battle between opposition fighters and the government is escalating.