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Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, briefs the Security Council, New York, July 29, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

Syria’s Other Casualty: Europeans’ Middle East Mediation Role?

Monday, Oct. 26, 2015

Do Europeans still make good peacemakers? Europe’s militaries have been in long-term decline since the end of the Cold War. But the continent’s diplomats and politicians retain a prominent role in international crisis management. This is nowhere more obvious than in the Middle East and North Africa. The United Nations currently has seven top-level envoys working on conflicts in the region. Five of them are Europeans. The U.N. has, for example, decided that a German official will replace a Spanish diplomat as its envoy on Libya. Staffan de Mistura, who holds double Italian-Swedish nationality, still has the ugly task of searching for peace in Syria.

De Mistura and his colleagues stand in a long tradition of European mediation in the Middle East. The U.N.’s first representative in the Arab-Israeli conflict was Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish count who was murdered by Zionist extremists in 1948. Another famous Swede, Olof Palme, tried to halt the Iran-Iraq War on behalf of the U.N. in the early 1980s between stints as Sweden’s prime minister. More recently, former British Premier Tony Blair spent the best part of a decade trying to facilitate peace between Israel and Palestine after leaving office. ...

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