News / Middle East

Arab League Extends Syria Observer Mission Amid Serious Divisions

An anti-Syrian regime protester colors his fingers with the revolutionary flag colors during a protest outside the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012.
An anti-Syrian regime protester colors his fingers with the revolutionary flag colors during a protest outside the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012.

Arab League foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo on Sunday, voted to extend the group's already month-old observer mission to Syria, nearly doubling its strength of 165 observers to 300. The decision, which provoked serious disagreements among member states, includes a plan for Syria to form a national unity government, followed by new elections.

The decision to extend the Arab League observer mission was accompanied by a demand that Damascus agree to the formation of a national unity government.  The final terms of the plan were issued after hours of closed door debate.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabber al Thani said that the lengthy debate among Arab countries was sincere and that the Arab League was not divided.  He added that there is no desire to prolong the Syrian crisis and cause further bloodshed or economic damage.

He said the Syrian government must comply with previous Arab League demands to end the violence, withdraw its army from civilian areas and release prisoners in addition to facilitate the mission of the Arab League observer team, which will be expanded and receive U.N. training.

Al Thani went on to stress that the main focus of the new Arab League plan is the formation of a national unity government under the auspices of Syria's vice president.  He said that the new plan resembles the Arab plan that reached a political solution in Yemen.

Qatar's foreign minister said the Syrian opposition would begin a dialogue with the government under the auspices of the Arab League and that Syria's vice president would be tasked with forming that new government within two months.  He noted that the plan also calls for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in the coming months.

Arab League head Nabil al Arabi indicated that the plan had been developed after consultation with opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun and that it involves the designation of a special envoy to mediate between the opposition and the government.

He said he would appoint a special envoy to mediate between the two sides.  He stressed that the Arab League seeks a peaceful solution similar to what happened in Yemen and opposes a Libyan-style international intervention.

Qatar's foreign minister criticized the Syrian government for the ongoing violence, saying that the “excessive use of force” had prompted the Syrian people to “take arms to defend itself.”

Several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, had pushed for stronger action, calling on the league to refer Syria to the U.N. Security Council.  Earlier in the day, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told reporters that Riyadh is pulling its observers out of Syria.

He said that the "crimes" committed against the Syrian people must be dealt with and that Saudi Arabia is withdrawing its observers because the Syrian government has not fulfilled its obligations under the Arab plan, particularly putting an end to the violence.

Al-Faisal said Syria had not implemented any of the terms of the Arab League plan and demanded that Arab states and the international community “assume their responsibilities” regarding Syria.

Syrian opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun, who met with Arab League officials in Cairo, called on the league to withdraw its observer mission and take the case to the U.N. Security Council.  The opposition has condemned the decision to prolong the Arab League mission, saying that more than 900 Syrian civilians have been killed since the Arab League mission began.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs