Norwegian diplomat to be new UN envoy to Syria

United Nations (UN) chief Antonio Guterres has informed the Security Council that he wishes to appoint Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen as the next special envoy to war-torn Syria.

“I am pleased to inform you of my intention to announce the appointment of Mr Geir O Pedersen as my Special Envoy for Syria,” Guterres wrote in a letter seen by AFP news agency.

“In taking this decision, I have consulted broadly, including with the government of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the letter said.

Diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said Pedersen, currently Norway’s ambassador to China, had the informal approval of the council’s five permanent members – Russia, China, the United States, France and Britain.

“Mr Pedersen will support the Syrian parties by facilitating an inclusive and credible political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people,” the UN chief said in his letter.

Pedersen will replace Staffan de Mistura, who announced earlier this month that he is leaving the position by November end.

Mistura held the position for more than four years- the longest serving of three UN mediators so far – and said he was quitting due to family reasons.

The secretary-general called on the international community and the Syrian government to give Pedersen “unified and unwavering support”.

Challenging task

The Syria conflict, which began with anti-government street protests in 2011, has claimed more than 360,000 lives and drawn in foreign powers and various armed groups. 

The Norwegian diplomat faces obstacles in negotiating a political deal, which the West has said is needed to unlock its reconstruction support and to encourage the bulk of the millions of Syrian refugees in Europe and the Middle East to return.

Mistura’s predecessors – former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi – both quit in frustration.

The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany met in Istanbul last weekend and called for a political solution to the war and a permanent truce in the last major rebel-held bastion of Idlib.

Their joint statement called for a committee to be established to draft Syria’s post-war constitution before the end of the year, “paving the way for free and fair elections” in the war-torn country.

UN efforts are currently focused on trying to convene a committee to rewrite Syria’s constitution.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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