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UN envoy to Syria visits region to resurrect cease-fire efforts

The United Nations' envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, visited Beirut today touting a fresh cease-fire for Syria. Damascus said it could support the plan, but said rebel disunity is a key obstacle.

By Staff writer / October 17, 2012

United Nations special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi speaks during a news conference after meeting with Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati (not pictured) at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday.

Hasan Shaaban/Reuters

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United Nations special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Beirut today as part of a tour of the region, advocating a fresh ceasefire in Syria pegged to the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha later this month. However, like plans put forward by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, there is doubt whether the regional, national, and rebel support necessary for success is there.

Mr. Brahimi asked Iranian officials to help broker a truce earlier this week, and yesterday the Syrian government offered “the slenderest of hopes” when a spokesman said it was studying the proposed plan, reports the Telegraph.

“In order to succeed in any initiative, it takes two sides,” said Jihad Maqdisi, a Syrian foreign ministry spokesman.

A Western diplomat told Reuters that a ceasefire “could open the door to something more sustained" in Syria. "But it's not clear how realistic this idea is. Annan tried and failed to do the same thing," the diplomat said.

Though there are plenty who say the ceasefire is improbable, if not impossible – all international efforts to date to end the 19-month conflict in Syria have failed, with both rebels and the Syrian government ignoring previous ceasefires – some say a pause in the violence that has killed between 20,000 and 30,000 people according to the UN and rebel groups is desperately needed. Kaveh Afrasiabi, author of “After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy,” writes in an commentary for the Asia Times:

A temporary respite is desperately needed for the civilian population throughout the country, many of whom have become refugees or are bunkered inside their homes, as well as by the plethora of stakeholders in the Syrian theater, whose diverse interests may be converging toward a ceasefire.

As the Syrian conflict increasingly tears the country apart and risks the stability of neighboring countries, the timing of Brahimi's new push for a ceasefire is right...

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