Change is inevitable in Syria, says envoy |
Gulf Times - 20 August, 2012
The aspirations of the Syrian people must be satisfied, says the new UN peace envoy to Syria
The new UN peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said yesterday it is no longer a question of “preventing civil war” in Syria but rather stopping it as the country is already in the throes of the “cruelest” conflict.
“A civil war, it is the cruelest kind of conflict, when a neighbour kills his neighbour and sometimes his brother, it is the worst of conflicts,” said Brahimi in an interview with France 24 television at his Paris apartment.
“There are a lot of people who say that we must avoid civil war in Syria, me I believe that we are already there for some time now. What’s necessary is to stop the civil war and that is not going to be easy,” said the Algerian diplomat.
Syria’s popular uprising, which began in March 2011, has spiralled into an armed conflict with more than 21,000 deaths over the past 17 months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations puts the death toll at 17,000.
Brahimi said that “change is inevitable” in Syria, adding that it must be far-reaching.
“The aspirations of the Syrian people must be satisfied,” he said, without saying whether President Bashar al-Assad must step down from power.
The Syrian opposition earlier yesterday criticised Brahimi for not explicitly calling for Assad’s departure.
“The revolutionary Syrian people were shocked and dismayed by Lakhdar Brahimi’s statements,” said the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), triggering a retort from the envoy.
“We call on the international envoy - who has not yet consulted with any Syrians on his appointment or his mission - to apologise to our people for taking this unacceptable position,” the SNC said in a statement.
In an interview with Reuters news agency, the veteran Algerian diplomat, named on Friday to replace Kofi Annan who quit, was reported to have said it was too early for him to follow his predecessor in saying Assad must leave office.
“It’s much too early for me to say. I don’t know enough about what is happening,” the news agency quoted him as saying.
In a later radio interview with Doha-based Al Jazeera television, Brahimi denied saying it was too soon for Assad to go and called for an apology from the Syrian opposition instead.
“What I have said is that it’s early for me to say anything related to the content of this issue. That’s what I said,” he said, speaking in Arabic.
“Regarding whether Assad has to step down or not, I didn’t say that it’s too early for him to step down,” said Brahimi.
“I ask that (he) apologises to me,” the international envoy said, referring to SNC spokesman George Sabra who reiterated the call for an apology earlier on Al Jazeera.
Asked by Al Jazeera if the Syrian leader should quit, the new UN-Arab League envoy said: “This is a very big issue. I cannot discuss it on Al Jazeera or in any other media.”
Brahimi said he was on his way to New York for talks with UN officials.
His appointment by the UN Security Council has been welcomed by the West as well as by Assad’s traditional allies Russia and China, although the White House said it would be seeking clarifications on the terms of his mandate.
The controversy came as UN observers deployed to oversee an abortive peace plan brokered by Annan prepared to wrap up their mission in Syria yesterday even as violence continued to rage.
The 78-year-old, who also serves as the Syrian envoy for the Arab League, has experience in handling difficult missions after representing the UN in Afghanistan and Iraq.
More than 23,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against Assad’s rule broke out in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations puts the death toll at 17,000.