Talks in Geneva designed to move toward peace in Syria looked on the verge of collapse, with the government delegation threatening to walk out over opposition demands of a transitional government that did not include current President Bashar al-Assad. The man who said he got the commitment of both sides to sit down together is Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy on Syria.

Brahimi succeeded former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan as envoy to Syria. Annan stepped down in August 2012, delivering stinging criticism of the international community, the Syrian government and the opposition over the continuing violence in that country.

Brahimi is a veteran troubleshooter for the United Nations who has worked on countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, South Africa and Haiti. He has been a special adviser to the U.N. secretary general since 2004.

In 2000, Brahimi chaired a commission that produced a special report on U.N. peacekeeping operations, recommending changes to solidify member states’ commitments, create a standing U.N. rapid-deployment force and establish a U.N. intelligence-collection capability.

The former Algerian diplomat turned 80 on Jan. 1.

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His efforts on Syria, in his words:

Jan. 24, 2014: Both parties are going to be here tomorrow; they will be meeting. We will be working on Saturday; we will be working on Sunday. Nobody will be leaving on Saturday, and no one will be leaving on Sunday.”

“We do expect some bumps on the road. It is impossible that there aren’t any.”

April 2013, to a closed-door meeting of the Security Council: “I am personally, profoundly sorry that my own efforts have produced so little. I apologize to the Syrian people for having, in the end, done so little for them during these past eight months, and to you, in this council, for having had only sad news to report to you.”

Dec. 29, 2012: “If you have 1 million people leaving Damascus in a panic, they can go to only two places — Lebanon and Jordan. . . . All of us have got to work ceaselessly for a political process.”

Sept. 24, 2012: “I refuse to believe that reasonable people do not see that you cannot go backward; you cannot go back to the Syria of the past. I think I told everybody in Damascus and elsewhere that reform is not enough. What is needed is change.”

Sept. 15, 2012: “We will try to do our best to provide ideas and find what the situation needs to help the Syrian people get out of this disaster.”