The challenges facing the new UN special envoy to Syria
By Alaa Ebrahim
When the new UN envoy to Syria Geir O. Pedersen takes his post on January 7, the Norwegian diplomat will be looking at a very different scene from his predecessors. While all those who came before came with a political transition in mind, the changes expected from Pedersen are much less.
As the fourth UN special envoy to Syria, he will be coming at a time when many believe the conflict is in its final stages with the odds in favor of Damascus. He also comes at a time when Russia's influence and rule has become undisputed.
The first item on the agenda is expected to be the convening of a constitutional committee that is tasked with drafting a new constitution for the war-torn country. This committee was one of the key issues that aggravated a silent dispute between the former envoy Staffan De Mistura and Damascus, as the latter accused the Italian diplomat of expanding his rule beyond the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which is considered the road map to peace in Syria.
And while the Syrian government hasn't commented officially on the new appointment, sources close to Damascus tell CGTN that if the new envoy wants to have more luck than those before him then he should have realistic agendas and abide by UNSC resolution 2254 which stipulates that "the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria."
The rapidly changing scene across Syria is both a challenge and an opportunity for the UN official, because as the U.S. announces plans to withdraw from Syria it seems the vacuum will be filled with the Turks, which raises serious fear not just for the Kurds, who for long worked with the U.S. and long-term enemies of Ankara, but also this is worrying for Damascus as Turkey has often indicated interest in a permanent presence in Syria. But this also means the level of international involvement and with-it complications is fading.
With a clearer vision of the situation on the battlefield, the rebel has a sole stronghold left in Idlib province and recent days brought more gains for Al-Qaeda affiliated groups there which makes a Russian backed government offensive imminent.
But this doesn't take away from the pressing humanitarian needs after the almost nine years of conflict with nearly half of the country's 23 million population displaced and losses in hundreds of billions of dollars, which makes finding a political solution an ever urgent need at a time when the circumstances seem to be right.
The task ahead for Gere Pederson won't be an easy one, but it will certainly be easier than for those of his predecessors. Bearing in mind that if he's successful, he can make history by ending one of the worst conflicts in modern times.
(Cover: File photo of Geir O. Pedersen. /UN Photo)