(NEW YORK) — In a blunt assessment of the situation in Syria far bleaker than his predecessor ever gave, United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Monday that substantial change, not reform, is the only answer to the 19-month conflict that threatens to spill over into the entire region.
Brahimi, who only recently replaced Kofi Annan, pronounced conditions in Syria as “very, very grim” and dismissed out of hand President Bashar al-Assad’s solution of a “reform agenda” without directly criticizing the leader he met earlier this month.
Brahimi is in New York City for the annual United Nations General Assembly session in which the civil war in Syria is bound to share center stage with other major crises facing the international community.
The veteran Algerian negotiator had lowered expectations of what could be accomplished in Syria following the abrupt resignation of Annan, who expressed frustration with both sides in the conflict, although most say al-Assad’s ruthlessness and intransigence is largely to blame for the violence that has killed an estimated 30,000 people and left an estimated 1.5 million Syrians in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.
As for the opposition in Syria, Brahimi said the divisions among militias aren’t helping matters even though their common goal is to depose al-Assad.
Following talks with the U.N. Security Council, Brahimi showed a glimmer of optimism, saying that he had developed a full plan of how to proceed: “I think that we will find an opening in the not too distant future.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Catherine E. Shoichet, Max Blau and Steve Almasy, CNN
Billy Hallowell, Deseret News
Lorenzo D'Agostino and Hilary Clarke, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN