AP Interview: Envoy seeks unified voice on Syria

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Associated Press

Posted on August 19, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Updated Monday, Aug 20 at 3:31 AM

PARIS (AP) — The new U.N. special envoy to Syria admitted on Sunday that he faces a difficult job trying to broker peace in Syria and said his first task is overcoming divisions within the Security Council that stymied the efforts of his predecessor.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who was named Friday to replace former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria, said getting the Security Council to speak "with a unified voice" is critical to his mission's success, but that he has no concrete ideas on how to achieve that. The former Algerian foreign minister and longtime U.N. diplomat spoke during an interview with The Associated Press at his home in Paris on Sunday.

Russia and China have used their veto power at the Security Council to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

Brahimi, who served as a U.N. envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq and helped negotiate the end of Lebanon's civil war as an Arab League envoy, said Annan's mission failed "because the international community was not as supportive as he needed them to be."

"The problem is not what I can do differently, it is how others are going to behave differently," Brahimi said. But asked if he had specific ideas on how to achieve that consensus, Brahimi simply responded "No."

"If they spoke in one voice and were clearly supportive of what I will be doing on their behalf, that is what I need," Brahimi said in response to what he wants from the Security Council.

"Without a unified voice from the Security Council, I think it will be difficult," Brahimi said.

Annan announced earlier this month that he will resign on Aug. 31 as joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, after failing to broker a cease-fire as the country descended into civil war. Activists say about 20,000 people have been killed since March 2011.

Brahimi is was travelling to New York Sunday. Later he will go to Cairo for meetings with the Arab League.

Brahimi also called on Syrians to do their part in ending the violence.

"Peace will be made by the Syrians," Brahimi said, "At the end of the day, it is not the mediator and not the Security Council."

He said, "If the Syrians realize they need to move away from confrontation toward peaceful solutions, that will help, too."

The diplomat said military intervention "is not supported by anybody."

"I'm a peacemaker. By definition if I start speaking about military intervention, that is recognizing a failure, not a personal failure but a failure of the peace process," Brahimi said.

He also said he looks forward to including Iran, a strong ally of Assad, in the peace effort.

"Iran is an important country in the region and definitely I'll be very happy to talk to them," Brahimi said. Annan traveled to Iran with the same goal toward the end of his stint as the special U.N. envoy.

Brahimi, 78, has a long record of working in the Arab and Islamic world. He served as Algeria's foreign minister from 1991 to 1993, and joined the United Nations in 1994, where he served in a variety of high-profile posts until he retired in 2005.

Brahimi's long U.N. career took him to countries such as Haiti, Yemen, Sudan and South Africa, where he led U.N. efforts to oversee democratic elections that brought Nelson Mandela to power.

In Afghanistan, Brahimi served as the U.N. envoy both before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and after a U.S.-led force ousted the Taliban. In Iraq, he helped piece together the interim government that took power in 2004, following the U.S.-led war that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Brahimi served as Annan's special advisor on conflict prevention and resolution. He also headed independent panels that reviewed U.N. peacemaking efforts and security worldwide.

During Annan's six-month tenure, the Syrian government and its allies did at least agree to his six-point peace plan, which included a cease-fire leading to a Syrian-led political process to end the crisis.

While Annan singled out the regime for failing to take steps to end the violence, as required by the peace plan, he also blamed the opposition's increasingly militant tactics for dooming his plan.

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