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UN diplomat who tried to bring peace to Syria resigns

In this Jan. 24, 2014 file photo, U.N.

In this Jan. 24, 2014 file photo, U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi listens during a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Brahimi said Tuesday, May 13, 2014, that he has resigned as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy on Syria, effective May 31. Credit: AP / Anja Niedringhaus

UNITED NATIONS -- Lakhdar Brahimi, the experienced Algerian diplomat who took on the task of bringing peace to civil war-torn Syria in August 2012, has resigned, saying he leaves his post with Syria "in such a bad state," but adding, "I'm sure that the crisis will end."

Brahimi, who was in Manhattan to brief the Security Council on the situation in Syria, appeared at a news conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ban said he regretfully accepted Brahimi's resignation, effective May 31.

"For nearly two years joint special representative Brahimi has sought an end to the brutal and still-worsening civil war in Syria," Ban said. "He has faced almost impossible odds with the Syrian nation, Middle Eastern region and wider international community that have been hopelessly divided in their approaches to ending the conflict."

Brahimi's resignation had been widely anticipated in recent weeks as the two rounds of talks that he orchestrated between Syrian government officials and rebels this year, the Geneva II conference, yielded little fruit. The two sessions resulted only in a pause in fighting to allow for humanitarian access into besieged cities.

No third round of talks has been scheduled.

Analysts have said that the last straw came when Syrian President Bashar Assad announced in April that he would hold presidential elections on June 3, despite the raging civil war, and that he would run.

To some observers, that maneuver appeared to defy the spirit of the so-called Geneva Communique of 2012, which requires Syria to undergo a "transitional government." To veto-wielding Security Council members the United States, France and Great Britain that means Assad must go.

But Russia and China, which also hold veto power, have blocked resolutions that suggest Assad be removed.

Ban said he would soon name a successor to Brahimi, who himself succeeded former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who left after six months in August 2012, saying the situation was all but hopeless because of divisions in the international community.

"Without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to compel the Syrian government in the first place, and also the opposition, to take the steps necessary to begin a political process," he said at the time.At that point, the UN estimated that there were 10,000 people killed in a conflict that began in March 2011. The UN has stopped keeping track of the death toll but other observers place it above 150,000 now.

The conflict has created what U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has calledthe worst humanitarian crisis in a generation, with millions of refugees spilling into neighboring countries and millions more in need of aid inside the country.

Some remain under siege in bombed-out cities, blocked by either rebels or government forces from desperately needed food, water and medicine. "It's very sad that I leave this position and leave Syria behind in such a bad state," Brahimi said. "I have absolutely no doubt that you will continue to do everything that is humanly possible to work with the Security Council, with the neighbors of Syriaand indeed with the Syrian parties themselves to end this crisis," he added. "The question is how many more dead? How much more destruction?"

Ban said all parties must renew their commitment to a political solution to the war.

"I renew my appeal to them to show the wisdom and sense of responsibility that could allow a way out of this nightmare," he said. "There must be accountability for the terrible crimes that have been and are being committed . . . including deliberate starvation of communities by preventing humanitarian access."


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