Lakhdar Brahimi, the former Algerian foreign minister favored to become the new U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, called Friday on the U.N. Security Council to overcome its bitter divisions on the conflict.
“The U.N. Security Council and regional states must unite to ensure that a political transition can take place as soon as possible,” Brahimi said in a statement released by The Elders, a group of world statesmen.
“Millions of Syrians are clamoring for peace. World leaders cannot remain divided any longer, over and above their cries.”
“Syrians must come together as a nation in the quest for a new formula. This is the only way to ensure that all Syrians can live together peacefully, in a society not based on fear of reprisal, but on tolerance,” Brahimi added.
The statement did not mention the possibility that Brahimi, 78, would take over from Kofi Annan as special envoy seeking to end the war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition forces.
Annan, a former U.N. secretary general, said he is leaving because of the lack of international support for his efforts to end the bloody conflict in the country.
Negotiations were reportedly still going on over the new envoy’s role and how the United Nations will operate in Syria amid the intensifying civil war. The mandate of the U.N. mission in the country ends on August 20.
On the ground, Syrian rebels vowed to fight on in Aleppo a day after being driven out of a key district under heavy shellfire by the army, which targeted other parts of the strategic city on Friday.
The exiled opposition said that Aleppo’s historic citadel, part of a UNESCO-listed world heritage site, had suffered damaged in the bombardment of rebel-held areas that has accompanied the army’s ground offensive in Syria’s commercial capital, now in its third day.
A rebel commander, Hossam Abu Mohammed, said his men were still fighting in parts of Aleppo’s southwestern district of Salaheddin after most fled on Thursday in the face of heavy bombing and advancing troops.
“We will not let Salaheddin go,” the Free Syrian Army’s Abu Mohammed told AFP by telephone as the third day of a government offensive to take the city raged.
The army again bombed parts of Salaheddin, as well as the Sakhur and Hanano districts in the east of the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that the latest violence killed two civilians, among 11 killed nationwide.
Just before dawn, a MiG 21 fighter jet dropped four bombs on rebel positions in Hanano, an AFP correspondent reported.
One struck the courtyard of the FSA headquarters in the neighbourhood and another a nearby house, wounding a number of people.
Angry residents shouted hostile slogans against France and the United States, saying: “No one is helping us.”
“We are behind the Free Syrian Army, but it is because of them that all of this is happening,” one of them lamented.
The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said Aleppo’s 13th-century citadel, part of a complex of sites in the city’s historic heart that the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation says is of “outstanding universal value” had been damaged in army shelling.
“Photographs by activists and archeological associations show that the Aleppo citadel... has been damaged,” it said.
One photograph distributed by the group appeared to show damage to the citadel’s entrance.
“The way in which the shell hit the main entrance of the fortress and broke the marble panel bearing its name suggests that the Syrian regime intentionally targeted the site,” the SNC charged.
It was not immediately possible to independently verify the opposition’s claim of damage to the citadel.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory said the army had shelled the area around the fortress several times in recent days.
The state SANA news agency published photographs on Thursday of troops in control of the citadel. They showed no signs of damage.