Arab League backs Annan's Syria plan at Baghdad summit

 
Smoke billows above Baghdad after a blast near the secure Green Zone, 29 March Smoke billowed above Baghdad after a blast near the secure Green Zone

Arab League leaders have called for the immediate implementation of a joint plan with the UN to end a year of violence in Syria.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has accepted the plan, state media report, but says "terrorism" must stop as well.

Earlier, Iraq's PM Nouri al-Maliki warned that arming either side in Syria would lead to a "proxy war".

He was speaking at the opening of an Arab League summit in Baghdad - the first such meeting there for decades.

President Assad's remarks were contained in a message to the world's emerging powers - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - who met in Delhi on Thursday.

He said he would work to enforce the peace plan but "terrorism" must stop as well, state news agency Sana reported.

The Syrian government blames the anti-government uprising on foreign-backed terrorists and armed criminal gangs.

Explosions

Leaders who attended

  • Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
  • Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir
  • Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
  • Comoros President Ikililou Dhoinine
  • Libyan National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil
  • Lebanese President Michel Suleiman
  • The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah

The UN-Arab League plan, brokered by envoy Kofi Annan, would see a UN-monitored end to fighting, troops pulled out of opposition areas and access for humanitarian services.

Syria first agreed to the initiative on Tuesday but violence has continued.

A number of explosions were heard in central Baghdad as the summit was getting under way.

Two of the blasts occurred near the Iranian embassy, eyewitnesses said. There were unconfirmed reports that an explosion near the city's secure Green Zone was an IED (improvised explosive device).

Fewer than half the Arab League's 22 heads of state turned up for the summit, reflecting their suspicion of Iraq's government and its close ties to non-Arab Iran. Iran is also Syria's closest ally in the Middle East.

"Based on our experience in Iraq, the option to arm either side of the conflict will lead to a regional and international proxy war in Syria," Mr Maliki said.

The Emir of Kuwait attended the summit - the first visit by a Kuwaiti leader to Baghdad since Kuwait was invaded by Iraq under Saddam Hussein in August 1990.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the two Arab states most fiercely opposed to the Syrian government, only sent envoys.

Arab League leaders and envoys gather for a group photo in Baghdad, 29 March Arab League leaders and envoys posed for a group photo in Baghdad

The summit was held in such tight security at the city's former Republican Palace that the venue was not initially disclosed to journalists.

While expectations were not high for the talks, the fact that they were being held in the Iraqi capital at all can be seen as a sign of progress for Iraq, says the BBC's Wyre Davies, in Baghdad.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria "to put commitments into immediate effect".

"The world is waiting for commitments to be translated into action. The key here is implementation: there is no time to waste," Mr Ban told the summit.

'Keep pressure on'

The UK will give £500,000 ($795,000) to Syrian opposition groups, Foreign Secretary William Hague is to announce later on Thursday.

The money will be used for "practical non-lethal support" and to document human rights abuses by the Syrian government, Mr Hague will say in a speech in London.

Annan's six-point peace plan

1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people

2. UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians

3. All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause

4. Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons

5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists

6. Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully

Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have voiced their support for arming opposition forces in Syria, and some analysts believe they are already funnelling weapons to the rebels.

Washington has urged countries to maintain pressure on the Syrian government.

The US state department said it had "not seen the promises that Assad made implemented".

The opposition in Syria is sceptical about the terms of Mr Annan's plan, with some saying Mr Assad is merely stalling for time in order to continue his crackdown.

"We are not sure if it's political manoeuvring or a sincere act," said Louay Safi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council.

"We have no trust in the current regime... We have to see that they have stopped killing civilians."

The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed during the year-long Syrian revolt.

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 67.

    Power corrupys and people don't like to let it go. I feel for the Syrians and fear that there is a long way to go before peace is restored.
    I pray for all involved that they may find an end to this which is acceptable to all parties, but fear it is unlikely and that many more people will die.
    This is indeed a sad situation.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 57.

    By assisting the opposition forces in Lybia, the west has given hope to opposition forces in other middle eastern states. We assume that the governments are bad and the opposition forces are good but that's because we have it constantly drummed into us by our media. I learnt to read between the lines at a very early age, thanks to a wise school teacher, and would encourage others to give it a try.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    The Libya crisis has effectively stifled the UN because China and Russia are well aware how a humanitarian crisis was manipulated to institute military action against one side and regime change (to one which has already committed acts as brutal as it's predecessor).
    I think the UN should agree to allow China and Russia to get the aid to the people and allowing them to do it militarily if need be.

  • Comment number 27.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    the main reason that assad continues to murder his own people is the lack of a united front within the UN. The UN is a joke; it stands by talking while thousands are slaughtered and fails to even reach a consensus. If the UN in its present format had been around in 1939, it probably would have spent 3 years trying to reach an agreement on what should be done about hitler

 

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