Brahimi: ‘I haven’t resigned’

Lakhdar Brahimi, the beleaguered joint U.N.-Arab league envoy for Syria, is growing weary of having to shoot down rumors that he is throwing in the towel. "I haven’t resigned," he told reporters outside the Security Council. "Every time I wake up and I think I should resign but I haven’t." But while the veteran Algerian ...

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Lakhdar Brahimi, the beleaguered joint U.N.-Arab league envoy for Syria, is growing weary of having to shoot down rumors that he is throwing in the towel. "I haven't resigned," he told reporters outside the Security Council. "Every time I wake up and I think I should resign but I haven't."

Lakhdar Brahimi, the beleaguered joint U.N.-Arab league envoy for Syria, is growing weary of having to shoot down rumors that he is throwing in the towel. "I haven’t resigned," he told reporters outside the Security Council. "Every time I wake up and I think I should resign but I haven’t."

But while the veteran Algerian diplomatic troubleshooter vowed to soldier on, he conceded that his diplomatic efforts to forge a political transition are at an impasse, and that he had little good news to offer the council.

His efforts to bring the Syrians together have gone nowhere, he said. A series of U.S.-Russian talks he arranged have made some progress, but ultimately fallen short. (Though he said he was "happy" that Washington and Moscow are still talking. And yet, Brahimi suggested, his diplomatic briefings to the 15-nation Security Council were beginning to sound a bit like a broken record.

"I have probably said practically the same things I say every time: the situation is extremely bad and we need action from the council," he said after meeting.

The resignation rumor — the most recent of multiple previous false resignation stories — was fueled by reports that Brahimi was infuriated by an Arab League decision to recognize the opposition Syrian National Coalition as Syrian’s rightful government. The Arab League action complicated Brahimi’s efforts to work with Russia, which fiercely opposed the move, and led to reports that Brahimi was seeking to end his relationship with the Arab League. But the envoy denied it.

Speaking behind closed doors, Brahimi went further, telling the Security Council that the Syrian government must abandon its illusion that military victory can be achieved or that the international community will one day realize that President Bashar al-Assad is the only force capable of reining in extremist groups, including al Qaeda and Jabhat al Nusra.

But the Syrian armed opposition, Brahimi also said, will have to come to terms with the fact that they can’t prevail militarily, nor can they rely on foreign forces to save them. They "should understand that external military intervention is unlikely to happen," said Brahimi, according to a council diplomat.

The Syrian rebel’s foreign military supporters, Brahimi added, must halt the flow of weapons and throw their political muscle behind a negotiated political process. It’s commendable that Syria’s neighbors are providing humanitarian assistance, but "generosity will not solve the Syrian crisis," said Brahimi, according to the same source.

Brahimi said he recognized the threat that anti-government extremists pose to the future of Syria. But he said it is more urgent to focus first on ending the civil war.

Brahimi urged the council to encourage Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, who has expressed a willingness to talk with Syrian authorities, saying it would be helpful if Assad would make it clear he has no intention of running for elections for president next year. It remains unclear whether Brahimi was suggesting that Assad be allowed to remain in power until then.

"I think there is no need for a Brahimi plan; there is a need for Syrian plan," the beleaguered envoy said. "The opposition and the government have got to accept to come to negotiations and both sides have got to accept that these negotiations are necessary."

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

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