Kofi Annan, with the Security Council now fully behind his mediation mission in Syria, has gathered a group of experienced former United Nations officials and diplomats to work with him as he seeks the end of hostilities and, ultimately, a political settlement in Damascus.
The latest addition to the former secretary-general’s team is Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a French scholar and writer on global politics who was UN under secretary-general for peacekeeping from 2000 to 2008 and previously director of policy planning in the French foreign ministry.
A cosmopolitan strategic thinker and academic who is at home in both Paris and New York, Guéhenno is now director of the Center of International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Guéhenno will be one of two deputies to Annan, a special envoy jointly representing the UN and the Arab League. The second deputy, named earlier, is Nasser al-Kidwa, a Palestinian diplomat who was permanent observer for Palestine at the UN from 1991 to 2005. Al-Kidwa, who later served as the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, is now chairman of the Yasser Arafat Foundation. Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, was his uncle.
Annan has chosen Ahmad Fawzi as his spokesman for the Syria mission as well. Fawzi, an Egyptian, was deputy UN spokesman during the term of Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1992-1996, and then director of the UN information center in London from 1997 to 2003 and of the UN news and media division in New York from 2003 to 2010.
A former news editor for Reuters television in Europe and New York, Fawzi also spent 18 years as a news producer and anchor for Egyptian radio and television from 1966 to 1984. After leaving the UN in 2010, Fawzi became an international communication consultant based in The Netherlands.
As he takes on his very difficult mission, Annan will be surrounded and supported by people he knows well from his long career at the UN, culminating in his 10 years as secretary-general from 1997 to 2007, when he was succeeded by Ban Ki-moon.
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Barbara Crossette is the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.
Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994 to 2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,” “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course,” in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2015.”
Crossette won the George Polk award for her coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for her writing on Asia.