Paris: The new UN peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said Sunday it is no longer a question of “preventing civil war” in Syria but rather stopping it as the country is already in the throes of the “cruelest” conflict.
“A civil war, it is the cruelest kind of conflict, when a neighbour kills his neighbour and sometimes his brother, it is the worst of conflicts,” said Brahimi in an interview with France 24 television at his Paris apartment.
“There are a lot of people who say that we must avoid civil war in Syria, me I believe that we are already there for some time now. What’s necessary is to stop the civil war and that is not going to be easy,” said the Algerian diplomat.
Syria’s popular uprising, which began in March 2011, has spiralled into an armed conflict with more than 21,000 deaths over the past 17 months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations puts the death toll at 17,000.
Brahimi said that “change is inevitable” in Syria, adding that it must be far-reaching.
“The aspirations of the Syrian people must be satisfied,” he said, without saying whether President Bashar al-Assad must step down from power.
The Syrian opposition earlier Sunday criticised Brahimi for not explicitly calling for Assad’s departure.
Brahimi, appointed by the UN Security Council to replace Kofi Annan, has been welcomed by the West as well as by Assad’s traditional allies Russia and China, although the White House said it would seek clarifications on the terms of his mandate.
The 78-year-old, who also serves as the Syrian envoy for the Arab League, has experience in handling difficult missions after representing the UN in Afghanistan and Iraq.