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.


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.


More on This Story

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  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Hmm, why haven't they learnt that a 'plan' can only work, once both sides are at the table? This only smells like one outcome. So many lives have been damaged, lost etc, within these 'wars'. Yet, it seems still nothing has been learnt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    The BBC is running an article called "Syrian-American brothers in arms join Syria fight" By Marine Olivesi.

    It tells the story of two guys who travel to a far away land in order to buy weapons and attack the government there. It is the story of ultra violent terrorists from abroad, in other words.

    So the BBC is now celebrating outright terrorism, loud and clear. Grab a gun. Go crazy. Be free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    The Saudi's and Qatari's have snubbed the summit because Iraq, understandably, refused to invite the Syrian opposition as Syria's representation

    KSA and Qatar refuse to promote the peace plan and favour increasing the violence to facilitate regime change. And we all know who's pulling their strings

    The Syrian opposition have also sought to improve arms supplies to the FSA. An opportunity wasted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Turkey like Saudi, Bahrain, Yemen and any other Authoritarian gov. that is our friend(west) are ok to do what they want. Now add Libya to the list, they are doing their own killings too. Obama recently praise the recent election in Yemen as a big success when there is only one candidate, with a bit of luck I might have predict the outcome.
    Saudi is worse than Syria but Saudi is a friend

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Until the religion of the Middle East pulls it's self out of the 3rd century there’s not much hope for the counties involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Well, how about Turkey. They have just recently (in uludere) killed 34 people. 18 were under 15 yo. they take children and rape them. But nobody says anything.there is no difference between Esad and Erdogan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    To be honest I can't really see any change in the middle east. Instability in the region has continually forced the oil prices higher and higher. Peace would make a lot of people poorer. I really don't think the oil nations want peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Does anyone really believe the corrupt regimes of the Middle East (particularly Saudi Arabia), and the representatives of big business in the form of the West's governments, are really going to bring an end to the murder and destruction in Syria?

    Easier said than done, for sure, but a democratic socialist alternative coming from the peoples of the region is the only way forward that I can see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Okay earnest men of science, Let's have Cult-inspired-denied-mental-dysfunction solve the local Cult-inspired-denied-mental-dysfunction.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    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

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    When a ruling elite, headed by an unconcerned dictator
    ( whose main concern is holding onto power) starts to indiscriminately murder its own population because they can't stand him any more - shouldn't we be supporting the majority of the civilian population who have had enough of his rule? Whilst the UN are trying to arrange 'safe passages' and '2 hours cease fires' he will continue his murder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Comment number 1. WiseOldBob
    "I'm pleased to see that a major international summit is to be held in Baghdad: why should the rich West and South Africa have the monopoly on expensive events for free-loaders and brown-nosers to clock up their expenses, airmiles and (Gordon) Brownie points?"

    For the same reason we can have nukes and Korea/Iran can't - we have stability, they don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    $500M to host 22 delegate with only 8 turned up so far for 2 hours chat, in Bagdad, with all day curfew and you call this progress in Iraq?

    A group of sunni dominated countries to talke about a country(Syria) ruled by Shia tribe, any guess on the outcome?

    It's funny how we only talk to our friends and leave the enemy out and hope we can resolve issues with our enemy..

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Who do these people think they are, describing some areas of Syria as 'opposition areas' that the government must pull out of? Would we accept the same imposed here? No go areas for our government in our land because protesters, of other politics, ethnicities, tribes, religions, claimed them? Beware what you back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Maybe one day people will learn to live with each other and fighting over anything is pointless. Unless oil is found, in that case god help that country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Iraq is the unstable showcase of regime change and a country in near civil war. The pressure will be on the summit to conclude regime change for Syria. However, it's making it happen that will be the real challenge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    What was not in "western" news.
    1) Email correspondance that inidicates ex-blackwaters employed is helping the syria opposition.
    2) Oppositions are armed and attack civilains that do not agree with them.
    3) Opposition rejects UN mission as they demand no agreement unless it is about overthrowing current government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    @1 . WiseOldBob
    How nice of you to use a humanitarian disaster to spout ill thought out petty prejudices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I agreed with HELEN_of_TROY


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