Staffan de Mistura, special envoy of the UN secretary-general to resolve the Syrian conflict, visited Naim Qassem, deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah, Oct. 16 in Beirut. It is not the first time a Western or UN official has met with leading members of the Shiite organization despite the European Union designating the military wing a terrorist organization in July 2013. It is the first time, however, that a UN official directly involved with the Syrian crisis had requested and obtained a meeting with a prominent Hezbollah member to discuss developments in Syria, the causes behind the conflict and prospective outcomes.
De Mistura’s visit is unprecedented in that neither of his predecessors — Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi — made such a visit, even though Brahimi has known a number of Hezbollah members for more than two decades. In fact, Brahimi had served as a mediator between warring Lebanese parties in 1989. These acquaintances and friendships, however, did not lead Brahimi to go the extra mile to visit Hezbollah officials.