Syria: Veteran diplomat in new peace bid
Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister and veteran United Nations diplomat known as a strong-willed, independent broker, will replace former secretary general Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria.
Mr Brahimi, 78, who served as a UN envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, would resume efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Syria's crisis, said Eduardo del Buey, deputy spokesman for current secretary general Ban Ki-Moon.
"The violence and the suffering in Syria must come to an end," Mr del Buey said. "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."
Mr Annan announced earlier this month that he would resign on August 31 as joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, after failing to broker a ceasefire as the country descended into civil war. The UN says at least 18,000 people have been killed since March 2011.
Mr Brahimi will travel to New York and then Cairo, Egypt, in the coming days.
He said he realised his brief was "an extremely complicated and very, very difficult mission", but hoped military intervention was not necessary, saying talking about a military option was akin to admitting diplomatic failure.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton welcomed Mr Brahimi's appointment, saying he "will continue the pursuit of an end to the conflict and a peaceful transition in Syria".
"My message to special envoy Brahimi is simple: the United States stands ready to support you and secure a lasting peace that upholds the legitimate aspirations for a representative government of the people of Syria.
"And to the Syrian people: you are not alone. The international community remains fully committed to a Syrian-led political transition leading to a pluralistic political system representing the will of the people."
Mr Brahimi, who emerged last week as the leading candidate to replace Mr Annan, brings a long record of working in the Arab and Islamic world.
He served as Algeria's foreign minister from 1991-93 and joined the United Nations in 1994, where he served in a variety of high-profile posts until he retired in 2005.
As an Arab League envoy, he helped negotiate the end of Lebanon's civil war.
Several UN diplomats said Mr Brahimi had delayed taking the job as Syria envoy because he wanted a signal of support from the security council. What kind of support he wanted remained unclear.
Gerard Araud, the French UN ambassador and current security council president, has called the special envoy post something of an "impossible mission" and said he could understand why someone would take their time before deciding to take it.
Mr Annan said when he announced his resignation on August 2 that the security council's divisions prevented the united approach needed to stop the fighting in Syria.
Russia and China have used their veto power three times to block strong Western and Arab-backed action against President Bashar Assad's regime.
On Thursday Mr Araud announced that the security council had agreed to end the UN military observer mission and back a small new liaison office that will support any future peace efforts.
Expectations for what Mr Brahimi can accomplish should be lower than they were for Mr Annan, whose mission suffered from unrealistic hopes, said Richard Gowan, associate director of the New York University Centre on International Co-operation.
Still, Mr Brahimi was the right kind of negotiator for the job, he said.
"Brahimi has an incredibly strong reputation around the UN, but is also well-known for not taking orders from the big powers or worrying too much about media attention," Mr Gowan said.
"This may be just what is needed in Syria now: a hardened but independent mediator, who will stick with diplomatic efforts even if he faces a lot of criticism for failing to cut a deal fast."
Mr Brahimi is a member of the Elders, a group of former world leaders working for global peace that includes Nelson Mandela. Last week he issued a statement through the Elders on Syria, where he last visited while on a delegation with the group in 2010.
"Syrians must come together as a nation in the quest for a new formula," he said.
"This is the only way to ensure that all Syrians can live together peacefully, in a society not based on fear of reprisal, but on tolerance. In the meantime, the UN Security Council and regional states must unite to ensure that a political transition can take place as soon as possible.
"Millions of Syrians are clamouring for peace. World leaders cannot remain divided any longer, over and above their cries."