WASHINGTON — The United Nations and Arab League mediator on the conflict in Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, plans to resign his post after a nearly two-year effort that failed to bring peace to the war-torn country. Brahimi managed to get Syrian government officials and the opposition to participate in two rounds of peace talks in Geneva, but both of those ended without an agreement.
During a joint appearance with Brahimi Tuesday in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the mediator will step down May 31.
"For nearly two years, joint special representative Brahimi has sought an end to the brutal and still worsening civil war in Syria. 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," said Ban.
Despite his struggles in mediating a peace deal, Brahimi expressed confidence the crisis will end.
"The question is only, and this everybody who has responsibility and an influence in the situation have to remember, that the question is: How many more dead, how much more destruction there is going to be before Syria becomes again the Syria we have known," said Brahimi.
Brahimi had been working to restart negotiations, but that effort was thwarted with the announcement that presidential elections will be held next month, dealing a severe blow to his efforts.
He replaced former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as international mediator in August 2012. Annan also failed to obtain a cease-fire.
Meanwhile, Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard, whose country is providing one of the two cargo ships being used to move chemical weapons components out of Syria, urged Damascus to quickly give up the last of its lethal stockpile.
Lidegaard said the ships are not mandated to stay beyond the June 30 deadline.
"We have actually now gathered 92 percent of the chemical weapons of Syria. That is not enough, we are still having 8 percent remaining and will do whatever we can to get that on board as well, and then transport it away and destroy it as soon as possible," said Lidegaard.
The Danish cargo ship, and another from Norway, are in the eastern Mediterranean taking deliveries of Syrian toxins. Command frigates are escorting them. They are awaiting word to head for a Syrian port to pick up the last of the chemicals.
Syria agreed to scrap its chemical weapons to avoid a possible military strike from the United States, after an August chemical weapons attack on civilians outside Damascus. More than 1,400 people were killed.