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April 19, 2013

Envoy Brahimi Urges UN Action on Syria

by Margaret Besheer

The United Nations-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, says he thinks about quitting every day, but has no plans to do so.  He said Friday that the Syrians need to come up with a plan to end the more than two-year crisis and urged the U.N. Security Council to take action.  

The 79-year-old veteran diplomat briefed the Security Council Friday in a closed meeting on his efforts to find a political solution, amid rumors that he was planning to step down.  Speaking to reporters afterwards, he said there is no basis to the reports.

“I haven’t resigned.  Every day I wake up, I think I should resign.  But I haven’t so far," said Brahimi.

He also dismissed media reports that said he had agreed to stay on for an additional three months.

The rumors of his impending resignation emerged recently after diplomats said he felt the Arab League’s decision to give Syria’s seat to the opposition undermined his role as a mediator.

Brahimi said he has had extensive discussions with both the Syrian government and the opposition, as well as with international players the United States and Russia, on finding a way out of the conflict.

 “With the Syrians I got nowhere," he said. " With the Security Council - the Americans and the Russians - we made some progress, but it was far too little.”
He said it is up to the Syrians to come up with their own plan to end the fighting, but also urged the Security Council to use their leverage.

“And if they really believe they are in charge of looking after peace and security, there is no time for them to lose to really take this question more seriously than they have until now," said Brahimi.

The 15-nation council has been divided over the Syrian crisis, with Western powers supporting the opposition and Russia backing the government, leaving the U.N.’s most powerful organ in a deadlock and unable to contain the crisis.

On Monday, Arab League chief Nabil ElAraby is due at U.N. headquarters to meet with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Ban said earlier this week it would give himself, Brahimi and ElAraby an opportunity to all meet.

The United Nations estimates that the conflict in Syria has killed more than 70,000 people.  U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Thursday that nearly 7 million people are in need inside the country and there are more than 1 million refugees in the region.

She warned that the security situation has left the organization dangerously close to suspending some critical aid operations.