Rumors of Missed Syria Deal Likely Overblown

Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:10am

Foreign Policy pushes back on an article in The Guardian in which Finland’s former president, Martti Ahtisaari, said that Western powers passed on a Russian offer in 2012 that could have ended the Syrian civil war.  

“On a cold February day in 2012…Russia’s envoy, Vitaly Churkin, expressed confidence to his Western counterparts that his country would back a resolution clearing the way for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s exit from power as part of a political transition… In the interview with the Guardian , Ahtisaari accused the United States, Britain, and France of ignoring the promising proposal because they were convinced at the time that Assad was on the verge of falling.”  

“Western officials acknowledged that Churkin may have floated the idea to the Finnish diplomat. But they also recounted that Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top leaders in Moscow never made such an offer… France’s then-representative to the U.N., Gérard Araud, dismissed the idea of a lost opportunity and noted that Churkin would be an unlikely messenger for a genuine overture.”  

“Ahtisaari’s account, which portrayed Russia in a flattering light as a peacemaker, surfaced just as Moscow is engaged in an unprecedented military buildup in Syria that was widely interpreted as a bid to shore up Assad’s embattled regime.”