The international community’s Syria involvement has taken a new turn after Lakhdar Brahimi’s decision to stay on as UN envoy, revealing a paradox between the diplomatic and on the ground situations amid the background of an increasingly desperate humanitarian crisis.
Brahimi was persuaded not to resign by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, signaling that hope in Syria is attainable. The fact that he acquiesced to the secretary-general’s appeal shows that he has concluded that while complex, a diplomatic and political solution outweighs the possibility of further escalation of the bloodletting, despite the evidence to the contrary over the past few days. The ease with which Brahimi was persuaded reflects the glimpse of hope that the understanding between Russia and the United States — through their respective foreign ministers, John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov — might this time bring forth reconciliation in Syria that has eluded the international community for more than two years. From the beginning, Brahimi has relied on an authentic understanding between the United States and Russia for the success of his mission.
The paradox is that while the diplomatic side seems to be inching toward a solution, the situation on the ground is escalating and appears to become more intractable by the day. These events around the country have dimmed but not extinguished the hope of reconciliation.
A growing awareness has developed on the global scene that this conflict is no longer confined to Syria. It is increasingly leaving the whole region more vulnerable to conflict. Therefore, the international community has to take the opportunity to staunch the bleeding, especially given the growing humanitarian crisis and the potential destabilization in surrounding countries. The growing anxiety about this conflict is that — if it is not resolved soon — it might draw in more regional players.
The humanitarian element, both inside Syria and in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan, has brought into focus the urgent necessity of more humanitarian aid. And the hope of political reconciliation should be accompanied by serious investment in rebuilding the infrastructure of Syria as a united state to promote the healing process. The coming days and weeks must reinvigorate our hopes. At this moment, we should recommit ourselves to the primacy of hope and what it entails.
Clovis Maksoud is a former ambassador and permanent observer of the League of Arab States at the United Nations and its chief representative in the United States for more than 10 years.