De Mistura to succeed Brahimi as Syria peace mediator

De Mistura to succeed Brahimi as Syria peace mediator

UNITED NATIONS - Agence France-Presse
De Mistura to succeed Brahimi as Syria peace mediator

In this March 22, 2013, file photo, Staffan De Mistura, Italy's then-foreign ministry undersecretary, speaks during a news conference in New Delhi, India. AP Photo

Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura will be the new U.N. mediator for Syria, taking on the Herculean task of finding a political solution to the devastating civil war, diplomats say.

De Mistura is set to replace Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned in May after two rounds of peace talks yielded no concrete results and as the conflict escalated into a fourth year, killing more than 162,000 people.

But although Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had been expected to announce de Mistura's appointment on July 9, he wrapped up a news conference on the Middle East without doing so. "I'm going to make an announcement very soon but not today," he told reporters when questioned about the delay.

Although diplomats said Security Council members had already been informed, Ban said further consultations were necessary. "We need to get everybody on board," said Ban. "It's very close."        De Mistura would represent the United Nations and have a yet-unnamed Arab deputy, one diplomat said.
Brahimi, a well-respected and seasoned Algerian diplomat with extensive mediation experience, served as joint representative of both the United Nations and Arab League to Syria.

Ban warned last month that the new mediator would not have a magic wand to resolve the conflict and de Mistura now looks set to inherit a job many diplomats consider flat-out impossible.

Born in Sweden, the 67-year-old holds Italian-Swedish nationality. He is a former deputy Italian foreign minister and has worked for the United Nations for more than three decades.

He was U.N. special representative to Iraq from 2007-2009 and special representative to Afghanistan from 2010-2011.

De Mistura has also held U.N. posts in Somalia, Sudan and the Balkans, and was a deputy director at the U.N. World Food Program in 2009-10. He speaks six languages, including English, French and German. His mastery of Arabic has been described by the U.N. as colloquial.

On June 20, Ban outlined a six-point agenda demanding an immediate end to the violence, unfettered humanitarian access and a principled - and united - international response. He also urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo in a rallying cry for action to end the civil war.

Ban spent considerable time searching for a new mediator, hoping for someone competent but also acceptable to the main players.

A number of names had circulated in connection with the job, including former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and Sigrid Kaag, who oversaw the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons, one of the few international successes to emerge from the crisis.