Wissam Keyrouz, AFP
Last updated: 8 September, 2012

Dim hope of success for Syria peace envoy

Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi faces the arduous task of seeking an end to a bloody conflict that has dim hopes of a peaceful outcome, as world powers remain divided over a solution, analysts say.

“Mr Brahimi’s mission, by his own account, has little chance of success,” said Middle East writer and researcher Neil Partrick.

Fellow analyst Ziad Majed agreed that the seasoned diplomat, who took over the complicated Syrian role after Kofi Annan quit in August, “has little hope of success despite his long experience” tackling thorny crises.

Brahimi, a veteran trouble-shooter and former Algerian foreign minister, took up faltering international attempts to end the bloodshed in Syria on September 1, becoming the second UN-Arab League envoy tasked with the mission.

Annan, a former UN secretary general, quit after a six-month uphill struggle to end the war between rebels and forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has claimed more than 26,000 lives since March 2011.

Annan complained at the lack of support among the major powers for his six-point peace plan, particularly at the UN Security Council, where Russia and China vetoed three resolutions to impose sanctions on Damascus.

“There is nothing to indicate that the international conjecture has evolved in a way to help make Brahimi’s mission a success,” said Majed.

“I am convinced that there is consensus (within international circles) that the outcome of the conflict will be decided on the battlefield, not through (peaceful) negotiations,” he added.

For Partrick, the problem resides in the apparent unwillingness of the parties to the conflict to compromise.

“The Syrian government will talk to (Brahimi), as they badly need credibility” and to show that they are “interested in diplomatic efforts”, Partrick said.

“However, neither side in Syria is interested in compromise,” he added.

Outside Syria, divisions are wide on how to end the conflict.

“Much of the Arab world… is backing a regime change” in Syria, Partrick said, but regional power brokers such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Syrian ally Iran still do not agree on how to reach compromise over the crisis.

Partrick also questioned the “willingness” of such major players as the United States, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council “to engage with the (rebel) Free Syrian Army to encourage them to compromise”.

“It’s a zero sum struggle for control among Syrians and between their regional and international backers,” he added.

Brahimi has two handicaps, according to analyst Abdel Wahab Badarkhan: “Annan’s failure to end the violence and his failure to launch negotiations”.

With such debilitating obstacles, the new peace envoy’s task could take a long time, if it ever succeeds.

“Halting the violence no longer seems to be a priority or even a necessity because everyone thinks it is impossible to accomplish,” said Badarkhan.

“Brahimi’s work could be drawn out… and he will need to convince the parties to the conflict of the need for a political solution, and that will be extremely difficult given the current conditions.”

Brahimi, who made his name brokering an accord in the Lebanese civil war and as a UN envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, has already acknowledged the desperate nature of his mission.

In August, days before formally taking up his post, he said he was “scared” at the size of the task.

And on Tuesday he told the UN General Assembly that the death toll in Syria is “staggering” and the destruction from nearly 18 months of brutal fighting “catastrophic”.

But he said he would go to Damascus “in a few days” and that a united international stance on Syria was “indispensable and very urgent”, while insisting that it is for the Syrians alone to determine their future.

For now, Badarkhan said he could not rule out the possibility that Brahimi might “go to see Assad and tell him: ‘it is time to go and we are ready to find for you a way out'”.