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 Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs