Lakhdar Brahimi, potential Syria envoy, wants UN Security Council support before taking post


Diplomat and former foreign minister of Algeria Lakhdar Brahimi speaks during a joint press conference with former US president Jimmy Carter following a meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum on May 27, 2012.



UN sources say the veteran diplomat whom Syria has accepted as a candidate to take over Kofi Annan’s special envoy post has come to the table with a condition: before saying yes to the job, he wants the UN Security Council to unite in support of his mission.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who has held multiple previous posts with the UN, has the green light from Syria to take over for outgoinging envoy Annan, according to AFP. But, according to diplomatic sources cited by AFP, he appears determined to avoid the same fate as his potential predecessor: failure.

Annan, who will leave his post as UN-Arab League envoy to Syria at the end of August, spent months trying to implement a peace plan. Lack of international support for his efforts — namely, paralyzing division within the UN's Security Council — as well as unwillingness from parties in Syria to comply with proposed terms stalled attempts to end the 17-month conflict. He resigned earlier this month amid frustration.

Brahimi, who is also Algeria's former foreign minister, was expected to make his decision about whether or not to take the new assignment today, according to Al Arabiya. The news outlet claims to have broken the story that Brahimi's decision to accept will be "conditional on the Security Council passing a resolution backing his mission and implementing consequences on those who do not fulfill their commitment."

"It's an ... impossible mission, so I do understand that people hesitate to take this (on)," said French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud, who is the Security Council president for the month of August, according to Reuters.

The Security Council is set to meet Thursday on whether to extend the mandate of the observor mission in Syria.

It's no surprise that Brahimi would be astute enough to hinge his decision on the cooperation of the Security Council. A career diplomat who played key roles, among many others, in negotiating the end of South African apartheid and leading the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Brahimi may be best-known for his role chairing the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations. Tellingly, the groundbreaking study the panel released in 2000 assessing the shortcomings of the UN system is known to this day as the "Brahimi report."

Among its recommendations, that report stressed "the need for robust doctrine and realistic mandates."

A "realistic mandate" will be sorely needed if the UN is to move forward in Syria. The case in point is Annan's experience: though he had formal support from the council to undertake the observor mission in Syria — indeed, the mission was initiated based on a council resolution — persistent fractiousness and repeated vetoes by China and Russia ground its effectiveness to a halt.

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