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U.N. chief: Brahimi to remain U.N.-Arab League envoy

Published: Updated:

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appeared to dismiss speculation that Lakhdar Brahimi will resign as the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, saying Wednesday he will continue to work as the joint special representative.

Ban told a press conference that he planned to meet Brahimi later Wednesday to discuss “options” for Syria and expects to meet early next week with both Brahimi and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, who is coming to New York.

“Lakhdar Brahimi has been and will continue to work as joint special representative,” Ban said. “And it is very important that the United Nations works together with the League of Arab States.”

Pressed to confirm that there is no resignation on the table and that Brahimi won’t leave his post as joint envoy, Ban said: “We will discuss all our strategies with him, but I have nothing to confirm, anything, as you are suggesting, that he has resigned.”

Brahimi was reported in the Arab media to be planning to resign, or to give up his Arab League hat because the organization is supporting the Syrian opposition, which compromises his neutrality, and just represent the United Nations.

That would pose some difficulties because the General Assembly adopted a resolution appointing Brahimi as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy. U.N. diplomats said if he gave up the Arab League post, he would have to resign from both posts and then seek a new General Assembly resolution appointing him just to the U.N. post.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made, expressed concern that this would send a message of division between the U.N. and the Arab League at a time when unity is needed to try to find a political solution to end the Syrian conflict.

The five veto-wielding Security Council nations - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China - are united in wanting Brahimi to stay, especially to help with a transition when his political skills will be very important, the diplomats said.

But they have been deeply divided over Syria and unable to take any action to end the conflict, which in more than two years has killed over 70,000 people according to the U.N.

Russia and China, allies of President Bashar Assad, have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring the Syrian leader to stop the violence, and there is no indication of an end to the council’s paralysis.

The council is scheduled to receive an open briefing Thursday on the humanitarian, refugee and human rights crises in Syria. Brahimi is scheduled to brief the council behind closed doors on Friday and then talk to reporters.

“The prospects may seem dim,” the secretary-general said, “but I remain convinced that a political solution is possible. This is the only way to end the bloodshed and bring about a new and democratic Syria.”

Ban warned that the tragedy in Syria is getting worse every day and “the military dynamic is destroying the country and imperiling the region.”

The secretary-general said the U.N. is doing its best to deliver desperately needed aid to more than a million refugees in neighboring countries.