Geneva - The Syrian government has consented to the idea of
Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi replacing Kofi Annan as the UN-Arab
League mediator in the Syria conflict, though Brahimi has yet to accept
or reject the post, Annan's spokesperson said on Tuesday.
former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, announced
he would step down on 31 August because he was not able to carry out his
job with the UN Security Council's veto powers hopelessly divided and
Annan's spokesperson Ahmad Fawzi told Reuters that
the Syrian government would accept Brahimi as Annan's replacement,
though the veteran Algerian diplomat "hasn't said yes or no".
Fawzi's comments appeared to confirm what diplomats told Reuters last week - that Brahimi was tipped to replace Annan.
Council diplomats told Reuters that Brahimi expressed reservations
about the job, telling UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League
chief Nabil Elaraby that he was concerned about the deadlock on the
Security Council and wanted "strong support" from the 15-nation body.
Brahimi issued a public statement last week saying the council and
regional states "must unite to ensure that a political transition can
take place as soon as possible".
Russia, with the aid of China,
has vetoed three resolutions criticizing and threatening sanctions
against Syrian President Bashar Assad's government for its 17-month
attempt to crush an increasingly militant opposition with military
force, heavy weapons and aerial assaults.
The United States,
which has stepped up non-lethal support to the rebels, saw little point
in replacing Annan, given Russia's staunch opposition to sanctions,
diplomats said. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are arming the rebels, diplomats
say, and voiced little support for Annan's peace efforts.
UN officials said Ban hoped to make an announcement about Annan's
successor in the coming days, whether or not it would be Brahimi who
Brahimi, 78, has served as a UN special envoy in a
series of challenging circumstances, including in Iraq after the US
invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein; in Afghanistan both before and
after the end of Taliban rule; and in South Africa as it emerged from
the apartheid era.
Other candidates, diplomats said, include former European Union
foreign policy chief Javier Solana of Spain, former Spanish Foreign
Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, former UN special envoy to Libya and
Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdelilah al-Khatib and Italian-Swedish
diplomat Staffan de Mistura.
Whoever replaces Annan will inherit
his moribund six-point peace plan, which both the rebels and government
had initially embraced but is now in tatters, with the violence
escalating dramatically in recent weeks as the government steps up its
onslaught to wipe out rebel territorial gains.
The UN Security
Council is expected to allow the mandate of a UN observer mission in
Syria to expire on Sunday because violence there has not receded enough
to allow it to function. Russia has called for the monitors to remain in
Syria but the United States has made its opposition clear.
Security Council said last month it would only renew the mandate of the
mission, which was deployed in April to monitor a truce that never took
hold, if the world body confirmed a "cessation of the use of heavy
weapons and a reduction in the level of violence by all sides
sufficient" for it to operate.
In an 10
August letter to the Security Council Ban said this has "not been
achieved" and the mission, known as UNSMIS, "has not been able to
exercise its key functions of monitoring the cessation of violence." The
mandate expires 19 August.
The mission's initial 300 unarmed observers, whose role has been to
monitor a failed April 12 ceasefire, suspended their activity on 16 June
because of increased risk from rising violence. There are also over 70
civilian staff working on a political solution and monitoring human
The Security Council is due to be briefed on
Syria on Thursday and diplomats said that if UNSMIS is allowed to
expire, Ban would not need a new resolution from the deadlocked Security
Council in order to maintain a political and humanitarian presence in
"The United Nations humanitarian agencies will
remain active, even if the mandate of UNSMIS expires," Ban said, adding
that it was vital for world body to maintain some kind of presence in
Syria beyond the aid work.