Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States, and representatives of Russia and China have made their visits this week to ease tension in the region.
Analysts say the trips have had little effect in the face of sharp divisions between world powers on the Syrian issue. They say Annan faces a big challenge following his visits to Egypt on March 7 and to Syria later this week, and the chance of success is not better than 50 percent.
At his first press conference in his new post, the former UN Secretary General revealed his ambitious goals of reaching a truce agreement, halting the violence, and finding a political solution through dialogue. Although widely considered an impossible mission, the trip does create an opportunity for negotiating a truce in Syria.
Chinese envoy Li Huaxin arrived in Syria on March 7, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be in Cairo on March 10 to meet Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Arabi. The UN hopes they will help Annan find a solution for Syria.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin says China supports the UN’s central role in humanitarian relief, but opposes taking advantage of humanitarian aid to meddle in Syria’s internal affairs, make a military intervention, or promote regime change.
Amid the shuttle diplomacy, western countries have increased pressure on President Bashar Al-Assad to resign and on Damascus to stop suppressing the opposition. Although US President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta flatly deny planning a unilateral US operation in Syria, they say al-Assad departure is just a matter of time.
The Obama administration has added Syria's state television and radio to a US sanctions list and submitted to the UN a new draft resolution on Syria. US allies – the UK, France, and Spain – have closed their embassies in Syria amidst escalating violence.
Some analysts see the US and other western countries as scrambling for influence in the Middle East and ignoring Syria’s immediate and long-term interests.
Syria has responded to the US and its allies by increasing military pressure on the rebels. On March 6, government troops launched a large scale operation in Deraa and several southern provinces. President Al-Assad says Syria will crush foreign intervention plots and accelerate its fight against terrorists.
The future of Syria, which used to be the most stable nation in the Arab world, is quite unpredictable.