The United Nations has confirmed that veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will become the new international mediator on Syria.
Talking to Al Jazeera, Brahimi said he was convinced that diplomacy could still play a real role in solving the Syrian conflict, which the opposition says has claimed more than 20,000 lives since the anti-government uprising began in March last year.
“I don’t know if there’s any conflict that hasn’t ended with some kind of negotiation, with some kind of diplomatic phase,” he said.
Brahimi, who hesitated for days to accept a job that France’s UN envoy Gerard Araud called an “impossible mission”,
will replace former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is stepping down at the end of the month.
The new envoy said the international community cannot afford to turn its back on the war-torn country.
“The UN, and I suppose the Arab League as well, simply cannot just say ‘this is a difficult job, let’s look away’,” Brahimi said.
“I suppose I’m vain enough to think that with the little experience I have, if I’m asked to try and do something in a situation like this, I cannot say no, even if I’m deeply, deeply aware of the difficulty I am facing.
“We will go into this with a lot of good will, a lot of determination, but a lot of humility as well.”
Brahimi, a Nobel Peace laureate, has vast experience of handling conflict-stricken states.
Brahimi talks to Al Jazeera
He was a UN envoy in Afghanistan before and after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
Representing the Arab League, Brahimi helped end the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, negotiating with the Syrian government of the time.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby back Brahimi’s appointment, UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey said, adding that achieving a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis remained a top priority for the UN.
“The [UN] secretary-general appreciates Mr Brahimi’s willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to
this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects, the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council,” .
Diplomats said all Security Council members supported the appointment of Brahimi.
UN officials said he was expected to arrive in New York next week to meet Ban and discuss plans for a fresh approach to Syria.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed Brahimi as the new international envoy.
“My message to Special Envoy Brahimi is simple: The United States stands ready to support you and secure a lasting peace that upholds the legitimate aspirations for a representative government of the people of Syria,” she said.
Britain said it “fully supports” Brahimi’s appointment, welcoming the “vast experience” he brought to the role of seeking a political solution to the violence.