Denis Balibouse / Reuters

Syria mediator Brahimi announces resignation

UN-Arab League envoy says sad to leave country in 'bad state;' frustration at election plans thought to be tipping point

Lakhdar Brahimi has announced his resignation from his position as the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, following known frustration at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over plans to hold a presidential election in June.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a joint press conference with Brahimi in New York on Tuesday, said the decision would be effective from May 31.

“It is not very pleasant for me. It’s very sad that I leave this position and leave Syria behind in a bad state,” Brahimi told reporters.

For more than a year, Brahimi had made no secret that he was contemplating stepping down from the post as the United Nations and Arab League joint special representative on Syria. Brahimi told reporters a year ago that he thought about resigning every day.

Brahimi has organized two rounds of negotiations in Geneva between Assad's government and members of the opposition seeking to oust him.

While there were no breakthroughs at those talks, diplomats and U.N. officials said that Brahimi had wanted to continue the Geneva process to find a negotiated solution that would end the fighting, launch a political transition and begin the process of reconciliation between the supporters and opponents of Assad.

But Syria's April 21 announcement that it will hold presidential elections on June 3 dealt a severe blow to Brahimi's efforts in Geneva, diplomats said, since the vote is widely seen as a bid by Assad to defy widespread opposition and extend his grip on power.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said after the vote was announced that Brahimi and Ban had "warned that the holding of elections in the current circumstances amid the ongoing conflict and massive displacement will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for a political solution."

Diplomatic sources say that Tunisia's Kamel Morjane, who was the defense and then foreign minister from 2005 until the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprising led to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, was among the leading candidates to replace Brahimi.

Other names floating around included Kevin Rudd, former Australian prime minister, Javier Solana, former secretary-general of the Council of the European Union, and Sigrid Kaag, a U.N. diplomat who heads the mission for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

Brahimi's predecessor, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, resigned in frustration in August 2012. Like Brahimi, he complained that the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council could not unite behind his calls for an end to the violence and a peaceful political transition.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced some 9 million people.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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