United Nations: UN-Arab League Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is on the verge of quitting amid growing frustration at deadlocked international efforts to end the worsening conflict, diplomats said Wednesday.
Brahimi, who took over from former UN leader Kofi Annan in August last year, is “itching to resign but being persuaded to hang on for a few more days,” said one UN Security Council diplomat.
“He has told everyone that he wants to leave, there is little hope that he will stay,” an Arab diplomat at the United Nations told AFP.
Like Annan, Brahimi has been frustrated by international divisions over Syria - with Russia backing President Bashar Al Assad, while western nations and Arab Gulf states give increased backing to the Syrian opposition.
The civil war has left more than 70,000 people dead since an uprising against Al Assad erupted in March, 2011, and the two sides have become increasingly entrenched.
Brahimi, 79, has been criticized by the Syrian opposition, and Al Assad’s government said last week it would no longer cooperate with him.
But the Arab League decision to recognize the opposition Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate government of Syria was the final straw for the veteran UN troubleshooter, diplomats said.
“He wants to resign because he feels that the Arab League has taken themselves in a direction which is a bit different from the UN,” said the Security Council diplomat.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon and Arab League counterpart Nabeel Al Arabi held new talks about the Syria conflict on Tuesday, officials said.
Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister and UN envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, recognized when he took over the position that he faced an uphill battle.
Russia and China have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions seeking to increase pressure on Assad. Arab countries, the United States, Britain and France have in turn stepped up aid to opposition groups in recent months.
Ban, Al Arabi and all five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - want Brahimi to stay, diplomats said.
The envoy on Monday met in Washington US Secretary of State John Kerry, who sought to convince him to stay, diplomats said. But it was not clear whether Kerry made any promises of efforts to reinvigorate political efforts to end the conflict.
“We applaud Mr. Brahimi’s efforts to advance a political solution to the conflict in Syria,” said State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, before the meeting. “We reiterate our support for his mission despite the challenging circumstances.”
“This is somebody who has, for many months, labored in the very noble cause of trying to help peace in Syria,” the spokesman added.
“If Brahimi resigns soon, it will come at a very bad moment for the United States,” said Richard Gowan of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation.
“President Obama is already under pressure to react forcefully to the reports that the Syrian army has used chemical weapons. Obama’s critics will inevitably argue that Brahimi’s exit proves that there is no chance of a diplomatic solution left, and it’s time to intervene.”
Gowan said Brahimi has been in a weak position since making “a big push” to persuade Al Assad to accept a peace deal four months ago.
“He has been trapped between the Syrian regime, which has treated him contemptuously, and the Sunni Arab governments that don’t want to compromise with Al Assad. He deserves credit for persevering as long as he has,” the expert said.
Some diplomats said Brahimi could keep a role as an advisor to the UN leader on Syria or the Middle East, who could step in if the Al Assad government collapses and an international rescue operation is needed.
“Ban will not rush to appoint a third person,” said the Security Council diplomat. “You have had Annan, you have had Brahimi, are you going to get someone who can do better than them?”