UN chief pushes for Security Council consensus on Syria

Five permanent members debate whether to replace resigning United Nations envoy

UN chief Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Lakhdar Brahimi (photo credit: AP/David Karp)
UN chief Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Lakhdar Brahimi (photo credit: AP/David Karp)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed possible diplomatic moves to end the escalating conflict in Syria on Thursday with the deeply divided permanent members of the UN Security Council.

A UN diplomat with knowledge of the closed-door meeting said the resignation of Lakhdar Brahimi as the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria, and whether to replace him, was also discussed.

Brahimi told about 20 UN officials earlier this week that he is resigning but didn’t give a departure date, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were private. The diplomat indicated Brahimi would likely be gone by the end of the month.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the secretary-general invited ambassadors from the five veto-wielding council nations — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — to an informal meeting on Syria-related issues including “possible diplomatic moves to end the crisis,” the stalled UN investigation of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, and the worsening humanitarian situation.

The permanent members have been unable to take any action to end the Syrian conflict, now in its third year with at least 70,000 people killed, 1.4 million refugees and thousands fleeing to neighboring nations every day.

Russia and China, key allies of Syria, have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at putting pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to end the violence. Britain, France and the United States are now publicly backing the Syrian opposition.

The five powers did agree on the road map for a Syrian transition, along with other nations, at a meeting in Geneva on June 30, 2012. The plan calls for a political process that would start with the establishment of a transitional governing body vested with full executive powers and end with elections — but there has been no agreement on how to implement it.

The diplomat said one idea raised Thursday was to hold “a Geneva 2” meeting to focus on implementation, but there were serious differences on the timing, with Russia and China wanting to rush to Geneva and the Western powers saying that before any meeting takes place work has to be done to unite the divided opposition and with the government.

Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister who served as a UN envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, is resigning because his efforts to find a political solution to the conflict have failed, diplomats said. He replaced former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, who resigned in August 2012 after failing to broker a cease-fire as the country descended into civil war.

The diplomat said there was a discussion Thursday on whether to replace Brahimi with another envoy. One suggestion was that Ban take a more active role in trying to end the conflict and appoint a high-level UN official to oversee day-to-day efforts to promote peace in Syria, and another was to appoint a new envoy for the UN only, the diplomat said.

On chemical weapons, Syria wants any investigation limited to an incident near Aleppo in March, but Ban wants a broader investigation, including a December incident in Homs. Syria says if it has chemical weapons it would never use them against civilians so the Western powers have been arguing if that’s the case the government should let the UN team in to investigate the allegations.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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