De Mistura to be new Syria peace mediator
11 July 2014
De Mistura is set to replace Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned in May after two rounds of peace talks yielded no concrete results and as the conflict escalated into a fourth year.
Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura will be the new UN mediator for Syria, taking on the Herculean task of finding a political solution to the devastating civil war, diplomats say.
De Mistura is set to replace Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned in May after two rounds of peace talks yielded no concrete results and as the conflict escalated into a fourth year, killing more than 162,000 people.
But although Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had been expected to announce de Mistura’s appointment on Wednesday, he wrapped up a news conference on the Middle East without doing so.
“I’m going to make an announcement very soon but not today,” he told reporters when questioned about the delay.
Although diplomats said Security Council members had already been informed, Ban said further consultations were necessary.
“We need to get everybody on board,” said Ban. “It’s very close.”
De Mistura would represent the United Nations and have a yet-unnamed Arab deputy, one diplomat said.
Brahimi, a well-respected and seasoned Algerian diplomat with extensive mediation experience, served as joint representative of both the United Nations and Arab League to Syria.
Ban warned last month that the new mediator would not have a magic wand to resolve the conflict and de Mistura now looks set to inherit a job many diplomats consider flat-out impossible.
Born in Sweden, the 67-year-old holds Italian-Swedish nationality. He is a former deputy Italian foreign minister and has worked for the United Nations for more than three decades.
He was UN special representative to Iraq from 2007-2009 and special representative to Afghanistan from 2010-2011.
De Mistura has also held UN posts in Somalia, Sudan and the Balkans, and was a deputy director at the UN World Food Programme in 2009-10.
He speaks six languages, including English, French and German. His mastery of Arabic has been described by the UN as colloquial.
The UN approach focused on establishing a transitional government, but the strategy has hit an impasse, not least with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad re-elected in June.
It took all the considerable skills of Brahimi, who served as the envoy from August 2012 until May 2014, to coax Assad and Syria’s fractious opposition to the negotiating table in Geneva.
But talks broke down after only two rounds in January and February amid bitter recriminations.
Brahimi’s own predecessor, former UN chief Kofi Annan, stepped down after barely six months, frustrated by international divisions over Syria.