News / Middle East

UN Envoy: No Plan Yet for Saving Syria

Lakhdar Brahimi, center, special representative for Syria, arrives at closed door Security Council consultations, U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 24, 2012.
Lakhdar Brahimi, center, special representative for Syria, arrives at closed door Security Council consultations, U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 24, 2012.
Margaret Besheer, Edward YeranianJeff Seldin
Reform is not enough for Syria, it needs change, according to new U.N.-Arab League special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.  The envoy made the remarks after briefing the Security Council Monday on his recent trip to the region.

U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said the situation in Syria, where more than 20,000 people have died, more than a million have been made homeless, and more than two million are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, is extremely bad and getting worse.  But he said he hopes to find an opening for progress soon. 

“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.  But, I told everyone in Damascus and elsewhere, that reform is not enough anymore, what is needed is change," he said.

After taking up his post three weeks ago, following Kofi Annan’s resignation, Brahimi went to Damascus, Cairo, and to refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan. 

He repeated that he has no formal plan for achieving a breakthrough, but the veteran diplomat said he has a few ideas and plans to return to the region soon.  Until he has a plan, he said he would continue working with Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan and the June 30 communique of a meeting of states in Geneva that urged a cessation of hostilities and movement toward a political transition. 

The former Algerian foreign minister and U.N. diplomat also acknowledged the divisions within the Syrian opposition, but said they are working to bridge their differences. “I know that the members of Syrian opposition are still trying.  Their attempts have been disappointing until now, I am sure they will not mind me saying so.  I think their friends also are encouraging them to do better," he said. 

Brahimi also acknowledged the paralysis in the U.N. Security Council on Syria, where Russia and China have three times used their veto to block Council action, saying if he is not seen as representing a united Council he is “nothing.”
 
Continuing violence

Deaths Across Syria, map dated September 17, 2012Deaths Across Syria, map dated September 17, 2012
x
Deaths Across Syria, map dated September 17, 2012
Deaths Across Syria, map dated September 17, 2012
Brahimi's briefing came during another day of violence in Syria.

Syrian government warplanes continued their bombing campaign in and around the major city of Aleppo, pounding civilian districts and causing a number of casualties.
 
Amateur video showed neighbors and rescue workers clawing through the rubble of a collapsed building, searching for survivors. Chunks of concrete and wooden doors dangled overhead as the crowd picked through the debris.
 
Witnesses say a government warplane dropped what local residents call a “barrel bomb” over several buildings in Aleppo Monday, causing them to collapse.
 
For months now, analysts say the government appears to be using large metal barrels filled with explosives and shrapnel to destroy buildings.
 
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the opposition Local Coordination Committees said the early morning strikes destroyed two buildings in the southern part of the city.
 
Elsewhere, video from Homs, shown on the Al Jazeera television network, showed smoke rising from parts of the city, amid reports of more shelling and fighting there.
 
Collective violence
 
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, said government forces are inflicting collective violence on the population out of desperation.
 
"It goes without saying: that's collective punishment and massive destruction," he said. "Syrian MiGs are not known for being precision fighter jets and they don't have military targets to use missiles. The fact that government troops are using maximum firepower indicates despair."
 
Pro-government Addounia TV claimed that regime forces recaptured territory inside Aleppo from rebel fighters, showing a group of soldiers running across a street filled with debris. The report also showed images of the local governor's office, saying it had been retaken from rebels.
 
The television channel also interviewed several people who said they are from a neighborhood “liberated” by government troops. One middle-aged man told the pro-government station that life is better when the government is in control.
 
In Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi said the rebels are headed for defeat.
 
"It is only a matter of time, and it won't be long," he said. "We are heading for a definite victory and it will be achieved very soon. Anyone who is betting against this (victory) whether military, political or security, will fail and is stupid, an idiot or a conspirator."
 
UN food aid
 
Meanwhile, there are some indications international efforts are starting to make a difference, including those by the U.N.'s World Food Program in Homs.
 
Syria Refugees Flee Areas of ConflictSyria Refugees Flee Areas of Conflict
x
Syria Refugees Flee Areas of Conflict
Syria Refugees Flee Areas of Conflict
Country Director Muhannad Hadi said despite the ongoing violence, the WFP remains determined.
 
"This is one of the areas in Homs that sustained a lot of damage," he said. "WFP provides food assistance to the people who live there and will provide more assistance to the people who decide to return."
 
The WFP estimates 223,000 people are relying on its help as they live in shelters and mosques.
 
The United Nations says more than 260,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries during the 18 months of conflict. There are also thought to be more than 1.2 million people displaced inside Syria, and 2.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
 
- Edward Yeranian reported from Cairo and Jeff Seldin reported from Washington.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs