No return to Assad’s old Syria: UN envoy

Filed on November 30, 2012
No return to Assad’s old Syria: UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS — The old Syria ruled by President Bashar al-Assad’s family is finished and the “new Syria” will never be the same, the UN special envoy said Thursday, in a strong hint that Assad will have to step down before a civil war can end.

Speaking to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council on what he said was the deteriorating situation in Syria, UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi did not mention Assad by name.

However, when asked whether a peace plan being considered by diplomats would require regime change, the envoy said: “I think it’s very, very, very clear that the people of Syria want change, and real change, not cosmetic changes.”

“The new Syria will not look like the Syria of today,” he said.

In an apparent reference to the chaotic wartime collapses of the long-entrenched regimes in Libya and Iraq, Brahimi stressed the importance of not allowing state institutions to “wither away.”

He said there should be an “evolution toward the new Syria” and that “it’s the Syrians who will decide what kind of regime they will have.”

Brahimi said Syria “very, very urgently” needed a ceasefire and a large peacekeeping force.

“A ceasefire will not hold unless it is very, very strongly observed. That, I believe, will require a peacekeeping mission.”

Although Brahimi said the Security Council was the only forum capable of taking action on Syria, the body remains divided between Western nations and Assad allies Russia and China.

Moscow and Beijing have blocked three Council resolutions condemning the Syrian government, while Russia complains that the United States has refused to condemn car bombings by rebels in Syria.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, called Brahimi’s briefing “very sobering” and said Moscow was “extremely disturbed” by the rebels’ “brazen terrorist attacks.”

However, Churkin denied that Russia was blindly supporting the embattled Syrian government’s attempt to defeat the opposition, and he suggested that Assad was expendable.

Russia is “trying to impress on the government in Syria that there is no military solution,” Churkin said. “A military solution is not really working.”

Calling for negotiations between the regime and rebels, Churkin said: “We need really to find responsible people on both sides... (to) swallow their pride.”

Asked if Assad should stay, Churkin said: “We’re not saying President Assad should be sitting at the table.”

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