(DAMASCUS, Syria) — The appointment of veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as United Nations special emissary to Syria late last week isn’t expected to achieve immediate results in trying to end the year-and-a-half-long conflict that has left an estimated 21,000 people dead.
By replacing Kofi Annan who quit his post in frustration earlier this month, Brahimi, a former envoy to both Iraq and Afghanistan, has much more than his work cut out for him as he attempts the seemingly impossible task of bringing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel leaders to the bargaining table.
The two sides virtually ignored a ceasefire crafted by Annan last spring as the fighting only intensified. The deployment of 300 U.N. observers to Syria also came to an abrupt conclusion last week with fears that their safety could no longer be guaranteed.
For the moment at least, Brahimi’s selection, praised by both Washington and Damascus, is considered a step in the right direction. He’s known as a talented troubleshooter and was instrumental as a member of the Arab League in brokering an end to the Lebanese civil war during the 1980s.
Demonstrating the pragmatism he’s known for, Brahimi admitted after accepting his new job that “I will be able to do strictly nothing if I do not have the support and if I do not have the co-operation of the Syrians.”
However, he also insisted that abandoning attempts at a peaceful solution to the crisis was unacceptable.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN
Tim Hume, CNN Newswire