Conflict & Justice

UN envoy says it's 'hell or a political process' for Syria


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.



After Lakhdar Brahimi's visit to Moscow proved unproductive, the UN Arab League envoy to Syria warned against further deterioration in the war-torn country on Saturday, saying an unmanageable number of refugees could flee to Lebanon and Jordan if the capital city of Damascus falls.

"If you have a panic in Damascus and if you have 1 million people leaving Damascus in a panic," Braihmi cautioned, "they can go to only two places - Lebanon and Jordan." 

Though Syrian rebels refuse to negotiate with President Bashar al Assad without the precondition of his assured exit, Braihmi said only a diplomatic solution could end the 21-month conflict that has killed over 40,000 people.

The "only alternative is really hell or a political process," Braihmi said, "then all of us must work ceaselessly for a political process. It is difficult, it is very complicated but there is no other choice."

Braihmi's statements follow his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. Russia, Assad's stalwart ally since the rebellion began in March last year, continues to say it supports a peaceful solution, though it does not support negotiations with preconditions.

"When the opposition says only Assad's exit will allow it to begin a dialogue about the future of its own country, we think this is wrong, we think this is rather counterproductive," Lavrov said. "The costs of this precondition are more and more lives of Syrian citizens."

Lavrov added, "The chance for a political settlement remains and it is our obligation to make maximal use of that chance."

Brahimi and Lavrov both said a resolution must come via the peace plan approved in Geneva in June, which calls for a ceasefire, new elections, a transitional government and a new constitution, all of which Assad could be a part of, according to the Associated Press.

However, Brahimi ambiguously suggested some "adjustments" to the plan were possible. "There may be one or two little adjustments to make here and there," he said, "but [the Geneva plan] is a reasonable basis for a political process that will help the Syrian people." 

On Friday, an opposition National Coalition spokesman reaffirmed the coalition's position, saying it "will not negotiate with the Assad regime," according to Reuters. However, coalition leader Ahmad Mouaz al-Khatib told Al Jazeera that opposition forces are willing to talk, but said Russia must make a "clear condemnation of the crimes committed by the Syrian regime."

Watch Brahimi's comments here: