UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when he travels to the conflict-ravaged country.
“Special representative Brahimi is soon going to have a meeting with Syrian authorities including president Assad, and he has already been engaged with the key stakeholders,” Ban told a news conference in Bern, without providing more details about the highly anticipated visit.
Brahimi, replacing former UN chief Kofi Annan who quit in August over divisions in the UN Security Council on the deadly violence that has gripped Syria for nearly 18 months, arrived in Cairo on Sunday.
The envoy, who has acknowledged he is on a “very difficult mission”, said Monday he would travel to Damascus in a few days to meet Syrian officials, but had been unclear on whether he would be able to meet Assad himself.
Expectations that Brahimi will have any more success than Annan are low, however, and he himself warned Monday: “We cannot expect miracles.”
His pessimism appears warranted, since his mission begins with key Security Council members the United States and Russia split on how to tackle the conflict and as fighting only escalates.
More than 27,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in March last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations puts the death toll at 20,000.
The UN refugee agency meanwhile said the number of refugees fleeing the violence has reached more than 250,000, while more than 1.2 million Syrians, over half of them children, have become internally displaced.
Ban insisted that these “intolerable circumstances” must come to an end and that “the violence must stop by both sides”.
He said he understood the frustration felt by many in the face of the Security Council’s apparent paralysis in dealing with the spiralling crisis.
But “while we may be frustrated and troubled by not being able to address the situation in Syria, which has reached intolerable circumstances,” he said, “we should not be overly pessimistic about the strength and the commitment of the international community, especially the international organisations.”
He called on “all member states (to show) a common sense of common responsibility where human rights, human dignity are abused”.
“Those countries who might have influence over two parties should exercise” that influence and should work towards “a political resolution reflecting the genuine aspirations of the Syrian people”.