Lakhdar Brahimi’s Wise And Necessary Decision

Lakhdar Brahimi's decision to focus exclusively on his UN-mandated role in Syria was a difficult but wise one that will bolster his position as an impartial mediator, writes Clovis Maksoud.

al-monitor Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby (L) listens to then UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi speak during a news conference at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, March 18, 2013. Photo by REUTERS.

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Apr 17, 2013

Lakhdar Brahimi announced today that he wants to be exclusively the special envoy of the United Nations to Syria and not have the joint role of UN-Arab League envoy to the country. He felt that seating the opposition delegation as the representative of Syria at the Arab League summit in Doha might have compromised his position in the sense that the Arab League is no longer in tune with the mandate that the UN provided. Apparently, Brahimi felt that the seating of the opposition compromised the Arab League component of his mission and minimized his ability to mediate effectively.

Being the UN envoy alone will reinforce the common perception within and outside of Syria that he is an impartial mediator.

His announcement speaks to his disapproval of the recognition by the Arab League of the opposition government in Syria, which has compromised the absolute neutrality of the special envoy. So, he will remain the UN’s exclusive envoy, in order that he may project an image of complete neutrality in performing his duties in the pursuit of a solution to the increasingly tragic and complex confrontations that are taking place in Syria.

This development is necessary, so as not to compromise in any form the mission’s appearance of being neutral and objective. The announcement by Brahimi — a well-known statesman who has undertaken several missions of resolving conflicts in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen and other places — must have been a very difficult decision on his part. But I hope he will remain as the special envoy of the UN because his ongoing intervention might now help diffuse many of the mutual complaints that developed from the Syrian regime and the opposition. It seems that delinking the Arab League from his mission was a painful but, in retrospect, wise decision.

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. Maksoud served as the League of Arab States' ambassador to India and Southeast Asia from 1961 to 1966, as well as the League of Arab States' special envoy to the United States in 1974.