UN Chief Names Next Syria Envoy: Norwegian Diplomat Geir Pedersen

Pedersen will succeed Staffan de Mistura, who announced earlier this month he was stepping down at the end of November after more than four years for family reasons

In this file photo taken on May 10, 2007, UN Special Representative in Lebanon Geir Pedersen (L) walks in a field in the southern Lebanese village of Tebnin during a tour to UN peacekeeping forces.
AFP

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced the appointment of veteran Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen to one of the UN's toughest jobs — trying to bring peace to Syria after more than seven years of war.

Guterres said Wednesday that Pedersen brings decades of political and diplomatic experience to the job as special envoy for Syria. He was most recently Norway's ambassador to China and before that its UN ambassador.

Pedersen will succeed Staffan de Mistura, who announced earlier this month he was stepping down at the end of November after more than four years for family reasons.

De Mistura said he is making a final effort to advance toward a new constitution for Syria — a key step in ending the civil war.

Guterres informed the Security Council in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that he had selected Pedersen and called on the international community and the Syrian government to give him "unified and unwavering support."

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He said Pedersen will provide "good offices" and lead UN efforts to facilitate "an inclusive and credible political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people" and brings peace to the country.

Pedersen has served the UN in various roles including as special coordinator for Lebanon in 2007-2008. He was a member of Norway's team that negotiated the 1993 Oslo accords, which resulted in mutual recognition between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel, and was Norway's representative to the Palestinian Authority between 1998 and 2003.

UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Wednesday that Pedersen hopefully will take up his new job at the end of November.

"Obviously, this has been an extremely frustrating war for reasons that are well beyond the capabilities of even our most experienced diplomats," he said. "But we are hopeful that the time has come to finally turn a corner and end this war."