Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Envoy Sees No Easy Path to Peace ; U.N. Is Told Syrian War Is Worsening and Assad Isn't Interested in Reforms

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Envoy Sees No Easy Path to Peace ; U.N. Is Told Syrian War Is Worsening and Assad Isn't Interested in Reforms

Article excerpt

Lakhdar Brahimi, the new Syria peace envoy, told Security Council diplomats that there was no immediate prospect for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Prospects for any settlement in the Syria conflict remain dismal, but not impossible, the new Syria peace envoy said, telling Security Council diplomats that the government of President Bashar al-Assad still clung to the notion that pre-revolution Syria could be resurrected.

It was the first report to the Security Council by Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran U.N. troubleshooter and former foreign minister of Algeria who took on the job of Syria peace envoy three weeks ago after his predecessor, Kofi Annan, resigned in frustration. The envoy serves both the United Nations and the Arab League.

"The situation in Syria is dire and getting worse by the day," Mr. Brahimi said after briefing the council in a closed meeting on Monday. Food shortages loom because the harvest was bad, and Syria's former self-sufficiency in goods like pharmaceuticals has evaporated with so many factories destroyed or closed by the spiraling violence, diplomats quoted him as saying.

A political solution has proved elusive since the fighting began in March 2011.

"There is a stalemate; there is no prospect today or tomorrow to move forward," Mr. Brahimi said. But "now that I have found out a little bit more about what is happening in the country and the region, I think we will find an opening in the not too distant future."

Council diplomats said he told them that in talks with Mr. Assad last week, he found that the Syrian leader wanted to return to the old Syria rather than install any serious political change.

"I refuse to believe that reasonable people do not see that you cannot go backward, that you cannot go back to the Syria of the past," Mr. Brahimi said at the news conference. "I told everybody in Damascus and elsewhere that reform is not enough anymore -- what is needed is change."

Still, he stressed that he did not have a specific new plan but was relying on the never-implemented six-point peace plan -- basically a cease-fire -- first proposed by Mr. Annan, as well as a communique calling for a political transition that many nations, including Syria's staunch supporters Russia and China, signed off on in June.

Senior Arab officials and many U.N. diplomats have suggested that that plan needs to be revisited because although all five council members initially signed off on it, they all objected to it later. But the plan does call for a political transition.

The Security Council has been sharply divided on the issue of Syria, with Moscow and Beijing vetoing three resolutions. Many officials believe without that split, Damascus could not continue its violent, widespread oppression that, according to U.N. estimates, has killed more than 20,000 people.

Mr. Brahimi also told the council that senior Syrian officials continued to argue that the uprising was a foreign plot rather than a peaceful protest movement and to claim that there were 5,000 foreign fighters in the country. …

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