Last Updated: Sat Aug 18, 2012 00:10 am (KSA) 21:10 pm (GMT)

‘I might fail, but sometimes we’re lucky’: Syria conflict envoy Brahimi

Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will officially become the international mediator on Syria. (AFP)
Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will officially become the international mediator on Syria. (AFP)

Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, will take over from Kofi Annan as the international envoy on the Syria conflict, the United Nations said on Friday.

In his first tentative comments, Brahimi admitted he was not over-confident he would be able to end the 17-month-old conflict.

“I might very well fail but we sometimes are lucky and we can get a breakthrough,” he told the BBC in an interview. But “these missions have to be undertaken. We have got to try. We have got to see that the Syrian people are not abandoned.”

U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon appealed for “strong, clear and unified” international support behind Brahimi as he announced the appointment in a statement.

“The Secretary-General appreciates Mr. Brahimi’s willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects, the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council,” said U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

The announcement confirmed what diplomats told Reuters on Thursday.

Brahimi, 78, will have a slightly altered title, Joint Special Representative for Syria.

His appointment was agreed to by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, del Buey said.

“Diplomacy to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria remains a top priority for the United Nations,” del Buey said.

“More fighting and militarization will only exacerbate the suffering and make more difficult the path to a peaceful resolution of the crisis which would lead to a political transition in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” he said.

U.N. officials told Reuters that Brahimi was expected to arrive in New York next week to meet with Ban and discuss plans for a fresh approach to the Syria conflict, which the United Nations says has killed over 18,000 people.

Del Buey said Ban also thanked Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who accepted the job of Joint Special Envoy for Syria six months ago, “for his selfless efforts and contributions to the march for peace in Syria.”

Annan, who is stepping down at the end of August, has said his Syria peace plan was hampered by a divided and deadlocked U.N. Security Council.

Diplomats told Reuters that Brahimi, who had been undecided for days about whether to accept the offer of the post from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, did not want to be seen as a mere replacement of Annan but wanted an reconfigured title and mandate.

Valerie Amos, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency told al Arabiya television on Friday that she is looking forward to working with Brahimi and that the U.N. "will do everything it can to support those affected by the crisis in Syria."

Turkey’s foreign minister said on Friday that Brahimi, will need consensus in the United Nations Security Council if he is to succeed in his mission.

“Brahimi’s appointment is significant but the U.N. Security Council needs to back him up in unity ...,” Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference in Ankara.

“If we don’t want his mission to be unsuccessful like (predecessor Kofi) Annan’s, we should form a consensus at the Security Council and not allow any delaying tactics,” said Davutoglu.

Brahimi has served as a U.N. special envoy in a series of challenging circumstances, including: in Iraq after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein; in Afghanistan, both before and after the end of Taliban rule; and in South Africa as it emerged from the apartheid era.

It remains unclear what Brahimi’s formal link with the Arab League, if any, will be, diplomats said. They said Brahimi would be based in New York, unlike Annan, who is based in Geneva.

On Thursday, Al Arabiya learned that the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, would call Brahimi, who is currently vacationing on the Indonesian island of Bali, to ask for his final answer.

Al Arabiya broke the story on August 3 that the astute and experienced Algerian diplomat made his acceptance conditional on the Security Council passing a resolution backing his mission and implementing consequences on those who do not fulfill their commitment.

More than 23,000 people have been killed in violence in Syria since the outbreak of a revolt in March last year, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

At least 157 people have been killed across Syria by security force gunfire so far on Friday, according to the Local Coordination Committees activist group.

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