UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has ended his first visit to Syria on a peace mission that a rebel commander says is doomed to fail.
Fighting has raged in Syria’s two biggest cities as UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi ended his first visit to the country on a peace mission that a rebel commander said was doomed to fail.
Iran admitted for the first time it has elite forces present in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon, where Pope Benedict XVI added his voice to calls for an end to the bloodletting, urging Arab states to propose workable solutions.
As Brahimi made his way to the airport at the end of a four-day visit to the war-ravaged country, a commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army who had an internet conference call with the envoy on Sunday said his mission would fail.
“We are sure Brahimi will fail like the other envoys before him, but we (the rebels) do not want to be the reason of his failure,” the FSA chief for Aleppo province in north Syria, Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, said by telephone.
“We discussed the general situation in Syria, mainly focusing on the destruction wielded by the regime on the country,” said Okaidi, who talked to Brahimi along with the FSA spokesman in Syria, Colonel Qassem Saadeddine, and the group’s chief in Damascus, Colonel Khaled Hobous.
Brahimi, who replaced former UN chief Kofi Annan following the failure of his six-point peace plan, warned on Saturday after meeting President Bashar al-Assad that the worsening conflict threatens both the region and the world at large.
The Algerian former foreign minister insisted that “the solution can only come from the Syrian people.”
But Okaidi accused the international community of “giving political cover to the regime” and of pushing the opposition to hold talks with the regime but without pressuring the government to stop its repression.
“We are sure Brahimi will fail because the international community does not actually want to help the Syrian people,” he said.
“We do not want the international community to help the Syrian people. We just want it to remove the political cover it grants to the criminal regime. We cannot be in dialogue with criminals.”
Eighteen months into the crisis, the international community remains paralysed, with the West, the Gulf and Turkey calling for the removal of Assad, and Russia and China standing by its ally in Damascus.
The relentless violence affected the start on Sunday of the educational year, with activists saying few schools opened in flashpoint areas, including Aleppo, and the UN reporting more than than 2000 schools damaged or destroyed countrywide since the uprising began in March 2011.
In a rare news conference, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said members of his elite special operations unit, the Quds Force, were present in Syria and Lebanon.
“A number of Quds Force members are present in Syria and Lebanon … we provide (these countries) with counsel and advice, and transfer experience to them,” said Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Jafari.
“But it does not mean that we have a military presence there,” he added.
Western and Arab countries have accused Iran of giving military aid to the Assad regime.