Syria unrest: Arab League 'seeks peacekeeping mission'

 
Empty Syrian seat at Arab League meeting in Cairo Syria's membership of the Arab League has already been suspended

The Arab League is calling for a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping mission to end the 11-month conflict in Syria.

In a resolution seen by the BBC but not yet officially released, it scrapped its observer team, suspended last month, and said it was ending all diplomatic co-operation with Syria.

Damascus "categorically rejected" the resolution, a Syrian envoy said.

The League's moves come a week after a UN Security Council resolution on Syria was vetoed by Russia and China.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen in Cairo says the resolution contains the toughest language on Syria by the Arab League so far and makes it much more likely that the issue will return to the Security Council.

The fact that they are considering these moves shows the extent of the Syrian regime's isolation, our correspondent adds.

It remains to be seen whether Moscow will continue to ride diplomatic shotgun for its old allies and trading partners, he says.

Earlier, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri backed the Syrian uprising in a video message, telling the opposition not to rely on the West or Arab countries for support.

Analysis

The Arab League decisions to halt all economic and diplomatic co-operation with the Syrian government may intensify the pressure and isolation for Damascus.

But the call on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution to set up a joint UN/Arab League peacekeeping operation is unlikely to bring swift results.

Any such move needs a ceasefire which does not exist, and which Syria would not accept because it would put rebels and government on the same footing.

It would also require a consensus at the Security Council which is not there. Russia and China have staunchly protected Syria, which immediately rejected the League decisions out of hand.

But the League's decisions gave its members political cover for backing and financing the Syrian opposition. Syria already accuses some Arab states of paying and arming the rebels.

The appearance on the scene of al-Qaeda further complicates the picture as the opposition strives to appear peaceful victims of state oppression.

Meanwhile the bombardment of the Syrian city of Homs was reported to have continued after a brief lull on Saturday night and Sunday morning, with activists saying four people had been killed.

Human rights groups say more than 7,000 have died throughout Syria since March. The government says at least 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed combating "armed gangs and terrorists".

'Hysteria'

A statement issued by the League after the Cairo meeting said it would "ask the UN Security Council to issue a decision on the formation of a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force to oversee the implementation of a ceasefire".

It said it was ending its observer mission, sent in December but suspended in January amid criticism that it was ineffective in the face of continuing violence.

The head of the mission, the controversial Sudanese General Mohammed al-Dabi, submitted his resignation earlier on Sunday.

The League also called for "opening communication channels with the Syrian opposition and providing all forms of political and material support to it", and urged opposition groups to be more united.

It held the Syrian government responsible for the protection of civilians, and said their killing was a crime which must be punished.

A representative of the League told the BBC the resolution had been agreed to by a majority of the foreign ministers.

But the Syrian ambassador in Cairo, Yusuf Ahmed, rejected the resolution, saying it "reflected the hysteria of these governments" after they failed to get UN Security Council support.

'Move swiftly'

Opening the meeting, the League's Secretary General, Nabil al-Arabi, said the failure of international diplomacy had put a special responsibility on the league.

Map of Homs

"It is imperative for us to move swiftly in all directions, to halt the vicious cycle of violence," he said in his opening words to the meeting.

The UN General Assembly is scheduled to discuss Syria on Monday.

There is no power of veto at the General Assembly but its resolutions have no legal force, unlike those of the Security Council.

There were reports of a respite in the bombardment of Homs on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Shelling later resumed, but the lull was enough to allow some people to get out and queue for bread.

At least four people were killed in the Baba Amr neighbourhood of the city on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights said. At least 35 died on Saturday.

Activists say more than 400 people have been killed since security forces launched an assault on opposition-held areas on the city last Saturday.

Separately, Syrian state TV showed pictures of funerals of car bomb victims in the country's second city Aleppo.

The government says 28 people were killed in two attacks in the city on Friday.

Uprising activists have condemned such attacks, and blamed them on the regime itself, but US officials are reported to believe they were the work of al-Qaeda.

 

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 22.

    You obviously don't know how things work. The UN or the Arab Leauge can't send in a peacekeeping force until peace has been negotiated.

    And that is not going to happen. Assad and the army don't wont to give up their power.

    And I hope that eventually the Arab nations will get the balls to send in their own troops to stop the bloodshed, rather than letting western blood be spilled.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    No 17: What will Russia or China say about it? Well, hopefully, when this moves from being a western-led UN resolution to an Arab-led UN resolution, no-one will give a hoot what they say, and they'll have serious egg on their faces if they try to veto it. There should be no power of veto, anyway. A constitution which says "all members are equal but five are more equal than others", is appalling.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 20.

    Didn't Bashar al-Assad see how Libya dealt with Ghadafi? (killed by lynch mob). If I was in Bashar al-Assad's shoes I'd would be very careful. He's not very bright is he?

    He's also not very subtle or sensitive. Months ago when the rebel - revenge attacks weren't happening he should have seen the warning signs - & got out (held free & fair elections). Not start cracking a
    nut with a sledgehammer

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    Perhaps Mr Cameron and co should worry about these people's problems, instead of worrying who didn't shake hands with who.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    The Arab league is useless.

    I'm estimating another 5,500 people will die by the time anything is accomplished.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 17.

    If it helps stop the killing of innocent civilians then good. As long as its not US led, and the west lets the Arabs take the lead its got my backing. I'm not sure what china or Russia will say about it though...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 16.

    Whatever the eventual outcome of this world disaster, thousands of innocent people will have lost their lives by the time its sorted.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 15.

    Its a good sign the arab world rising to resolve through peace the conflict in Syria without western interference and politics getting in the way of innocent people being protected from bombs and bullets from both sides in this fight for freedom.

    I would also hope the Syrian leaders do the right thing too and arrange a fair election and allow the people to decide who rules ultimately.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 14.

    This is going to get really nasty, especially with Al-Qaeda supporting the opposition as well. Frying pan or fire? It's a very interesting situation though, as for the first time in centuries the West aren't in a position to call the shots - we just don't have any teeth in this fight.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 13.

    This "force" should come from only Arab Nations who have half a chance of understanding the complications of tribal influences and different makes of Islam

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 12.

    In my opinion, NATO/UK/USA won't get involved in a conflict. It will be seen as Israel telling them what to do. One bomb or missile from any NATO force will really incite the "west-haters" even more.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 11.

    What is the point? Whoever gets into power will end up killing & brutalising their own people.

    The Arab people seem obsessed with allowing these nutcase dictators to get into power.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 10.

    If the power behind the "Rebel forces" isn't the UN then sheer desperation will drive them into the arms of less desireable alies, whoever that is it will lead only to further destablise the region. Act now or reep the rewards of inaction.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 9.

    This idea for a joint UN/Arab League peacekeeping force is excellent. I am sure that Canada through the UN will want to join. I believe Russia and China will also support such an action.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    Much as we would like to see this - the truth is that the UN are impotent and, considering previous veto action by Russia & China, nothing will come of it.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 7.

    US/UK won't be happy. They had a whole range of new bombs and explosives they were just itching to try out on the Syrians....

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 6.

    About time to. As long as it is the Arab nations who make up the majority of the "force." The rest should be random members of the UN who could be ready quickly, not just the USA, UK or France.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 5.

    Good. It's only right that they try to sort themselves out without the US sticking their noses in where it's not welcome.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 4.

    agree totally with "cityboy".the middle East has to play its part in these missions. Maybe a similar solution could work betweennIsrael and Palestine. Its about time these people stopped killing each other to try and achieve (unsuccessfully) their objectives. Desiderata I say just work it out.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    Best thing that could happen,just keep the US and Nato out of it.

 

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