Syria would accept Lakhdar Brahimi as the new UN-Arab League mediator, but the veteran envoy wants formal UN Security Council support before accepting the post, diplomats said Tuesday.
The 15-nation Security Council is deeply divided over the Syria conflict and Brahimi has sought a gesture of “strong support” as a condition for taking over from Kofi Annan, a UN diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
That demand was confirmed by other envoys.
The announcement of Brahimi’s appointment has been expected for days, but diplomats said the former Algerian foreign minister and UN special representative has not yet given his agreement.
Annan resigned on August 2, complaining of lack of support from the major powers on the Security Council, and will officially stop work on August 31.
Annan’s appointment by UN chief Ban Ki-moon was, however, never endorsed by the council even though it expressed strong support in various statements.
Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in Geneva that President Bashar al-Assad’s government had signaled acceptance of Brahimi as the new mediator.
But he added that “no decision” on the post had been made by Brahimi — who served as UN envoy to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks and in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion — or Ban.
“Brahimi wants an endorsement from the Security Council,” said a second UN diplomat. “He considers this crucial if he is to stand a chance in the position.”
Annan complained repeatedly about divisions on the Security Council and Brahimi said Friday that the council and regional states “must unite to ensure that a political transition can take place as soon as possible.”
The show of support would not necessarily have to come in the form of a resolution, diplomats said, but could just be a statement released by the 15 countries on the council.
Russia and China have used their powers as permanent members of the Security Council to veto three resolutions criticizing Assad and threatening sanctions.
They have been criticized by the United States and European powers for blocking international action on the 17-month-old conflict, which Syrian activists say has left more than 23,000 people dead.
Russia, Assad’s major international ally, has in turn accused Western nations of seeking a pretext for military intervention in Syria.
With the conflict worsening, the Security Council must also quickly decide the fate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), which was sent to monitor a ceasefire brokered by Annan which never took hold.
The mission’s mandate ends on August 20 and the council is to hold consultations on UNSMIS on Thursday. The original 300 unarmed military observers have already been cut back to less than 150 because of the worsening violence and expectations that the mission will be ended.
Ban has insisted however that the United Nations must maintain a presence in Syria to be able to monitor events and keep alive hopes of a political resolution.
“A flexible UN presence in Syria would provide the UN impartial means to assess the situation on the ground,” Ban said in a letter to the Security Council ahead of its talks.
“The UN cannot discontinue its support” while the crisis continues, he stressed. “Rather, we must adapt to the situation while pursuing our efforts.”