By Ramadan al Fatash — VETERAN Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, noted for roles in defusing tensions in several hotspots around the world, is likely to be picked as the next United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria, diplomats said yesterday.
An official announcement of the appointment of the 78-year-old Brahimi is expected to be made early this week, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity as talks continue. "We are certain it will be Brahimi," said one UN diplomat. "He is the choice of the UN secretary-general and his name will be announced next week as long as he does not pull out," added another.
Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary-general, said he is leaving because of the lack of international support for his efforts to end the 17-month Syria conflict, in which rebels say more than 20,000 people have been killed. He is to carry on working until August 31.
If confirmed for the mission, Brahimi will replace Annan, who said last week he was resigning as an international emissary to Syria, citing a lack of support from major world powers for his plan to end the conflict in that country.
Brahimi, 78, has already employed his diplomatic skills in resolving a string of international crises.
As an Arab League envoy, he helped to mediate an end to the Lebanese civil war between 1989 and 1992. In 1994, he headed a UN observer mission to South Africa in the lead-up to the country's first multiracial elections.
Brahimi has also been dispatched on UN peace missions to Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan and Haiti.
He was named the UN special representative for Iraq in 2004, to support efforts to form a transitional government in the country a year after the US-led invasion.
Having served as Algeria's foreign minister from 1991 to 1993, Brahimi is not surprised by the popular uprisings sweeping over the Arab region that have come to be known as the Arab Spring.
In a June interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah, Brahimi was cautiously optimistic about ending the conflict in Syria.
"I am optimistic that there can be a solution in Syria. But I am not optimistic that this solution will come at an inexpensive price," he told Al Seyassah. "I am afraid this solution could be long and costly."
Brahimi is a member of The Elders, an independent group of world dignitaries set up in 2007 to promote peace and human rights.
He visited Syria in 2010 as part of an Elders peace tour that also took him to Egypt, Gaza and Jordan.
Annan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon have made it clear that they believe divisions among the major powers on the UN Security Council undermined the Annan plan.
"I think there are different models for what an envoy might look like, what kind of background, what kind of role," US Ambassador Susan Rice said last Thursday without mentioning who Annan's replacement might be.
"We are open-minded about that. I think we have to be realistic that it is a very difficult job, and Annan did it admirably and found himself understandably frustrated at the end," Rice added.
A UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Security Council now has to decide whether to stick with Annan's plan.
"For the moment it is all we have, but that does not mean that it cannot be reviewed. There are parts now that are redundant. There could be a new version with a new name," the diplomat said. "All these elements are now being discussed," he added.
The badly divided Security Council powers are also discussing the future of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) — the unarmed observers who were meant to monitor the implementation of Annan's peace plan.
A final decision is expected at a Security Council meeting on Thursday.
The original 300 military observers have been cut to less than 150 because of the worsening violence. They are still carrying out limited patrols but most of their work has now been suspended.
The Security Council gave it a "final" 30-day mandate in a resolution passed last month. Russia, Assad's key ally, says it wants UNSMIS to remain. Western nations say it is too dangerous to keep the observers there.