Ahtissari says that France, Britain and the US turned their backs on the proposal, confident that Assad would soon be deposed anyway.
Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the proposal. Since it was made, in 2012, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world’s gravest refugee crisis since the second world war.
“It was an opportunity lost in 2012,” Ahtisaari said in an interview.
Officially, Russia has staunchly backed Assad through the four-and-half-year Syrian war, insisting that his removal cannot be part of any peace settlement. Assad has said that Russia will never abandon him. Moscow has recently begun sending troops, tanks and aircraft in an effort to stabilise the Assad regime and fight Islamic State extremists.
Ahtisaari won the Nobel prize in 2008 “for his efforts on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts”, including in Namibia, Aceh in Indonesia, Kosovo and Iraq.
On 22 February 2012 he was sent to meet the missions of the permanent five nations (the US, Russia, UK, France and China) at UN headquarters in New York by The Elders, a group of former world leaders advocating peace and human rights that has included Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.
...Ahtisaari said he passed on the message to the American, British and French missions at the UN, but he said: “Nothing happened because I think all these, and many others, were convinced that Assad would be thrown out of office in a few weeks so there was no need to do anything.”