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UN Chief Names Veteran Norwegian Diplomat as His New Syria Envoy

UNITED NATIONS, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Wednesday that Norwegian veteran diplomat Geir Pedersen will be his new special envoy for Syria.

Pedersen was widely rumored to be the top choice for the post. He succeeds Italian-Swedish envoy Staffan de Mistura who held the challenging job for more than four years.

Guterres wrote to the Security Council on Tuesday to inform them of his choice and thanked de Mistura for his work and “contributions to the search for peace in Syria.”

Pedersen, 63, is no stranger to either the United Nations or the region. He was Norway’s U.N. ambassador from 2012-2017. Since last year, he has been Oslo’s envoy in Beijing.

In the Middle East, he was the U.N.’s representative in Lebanon from April 2007 to February 2008 and Norway’s representative to the Palestinian Authority from 1998 to 2003. In 1993, he was a member of the Norwegian team to the secret Oslo negotiations that led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles and the mutual recognition between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel.

Pedersen is set to be the fourth U.N. envoy to try to bring a close to the Syrian conflict that began in 2011. In addition to de Mistura, the late Kofi Annan and Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi have both held the post.

De Mistura, 71, recently remarried and said he is leaving the post for personal reasons.

During his tenure, de Mistura worked to make the peace process more inclusive and had a role in facilitating some short-term cease-fires. He has been working intensively during his final weeks in office to solidify the creation of a constitutional committee, which is seen as a crucial step toward a credible and inclusive political process for ending the civil war.

“There is, in my opinion, still a clear window of opportunity that needs to be urgently seized,” de Mistura told members of the U.N. Security Council last Friday during his most recent briefing.

Source: Voice of America