UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakdar Brahimi, has resigned.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he accepted Brahimi's resignation, effective May 31, after discussing it with Nabil ElAraby, head of the Arab League.
The former Algerian foreign minister has worked for nearly two years to find a diplomatic solution to end three years of war in Syria, and his resignation had been anticipated for some time.
Brahimi gave his final briefing to the U.N. Security Council after Ban announced the resignation.
“I have suggested seven issues that need to be considered, and that if they are acted upon they will lead to a serious process for peace," said Brahimi. "[The] Geneva Communique is still and will continue to be at the center of things, but there are quite a number of things that need to be done.”
No successor has been named to replace the elder statesman, who recently said that if elections take place in Syria on June 3, his job — to negotiate a political settlement and establish a transitional governing body — would be pointless.
Appointed envoy in August 2012, at which point the United Nations said an estimated 20,000 people had died in the conflict, Brahimi said he is “very sad” to leave Syria still mired in crisis, but that he believes it will be resolved.
In the two years he has worked to find a political solution, activists estimate the death toll has skyrocketed to 150,000 people.
The outgoing envoy welcomed reports that Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has invited his Iranian counterpart to Riyadh for meetings.
Brahimi also noted that Iran has suggested a four-point plan for Syria that includes a cease-fire, national unity government; elections and a constitutional review that would limit the president’s powers. He said the proposal is “interesting” and could be considered.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin commended Brahimi for his efforts, saying he worked hard for a breakthrough, but it did not happen.
“But we believe that the show must go on, and that every effort must continue to be exerted in order to try to set the process of finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis in motion,” Churkin said.
Ban called Brahimi "one of the world's most brilliant diplomats" and said "he has faced almost impossible odds, with a Syrian nation, Middle Eastern region and wider international community that have been hopelessly divided in their approaches to ending the conflict."
Brahimi, 80, has served as a U.N. special advisor on several issues during the past two decades, including serving as the special representative in Afghanistan from October 2001 to December 2004. He replaced former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, who held the envoy post for six months and then quit, blaming the Security Council impasse for blocking his peace efforts.
Several names have been floated as possible successors to Brahimi, among them former Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and U.N. diplomat Michael Williams.