UN confirms Algerian diplomat to be Syria mediator

Annan to step down frustrated by UN impasse; veteran diplomat Brahimi to replace him as Joint Special Representative for Syria.

Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi  370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations on Friday confirmed that veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will replace former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the international mediator on Syria as the 17-month-old conflict slides deeper into civil war.
"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 UN 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 UN 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.
UN 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 UN Security Council.
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He was especially frustrated by the deadlock between the five permanent council members. Russia, backed by China, repeatedly vetoed Western- and Arab-backed resolutions that criticized the Syrian government and threatened it with sanctions, saying the United States, Europe and Gulf Arabs were seeking regime change.
The Western powers have in turn accused Russia, Syria's top arms supplier and staunch ally, of propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. They have also accused Syria's ally Iran of providing military aid to Assad.
The United States, envoys say, saw little point in replacing Annan and has stepped up non-lethal support to the rebels.
Brahimi, 78, has served as a UN special envoy in a series of challenging circumstances, including: in Iraq after the US 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.