League owns flaw, asks UN for help
Arab League monitors walk through the Al-Sabil area of Daraa, Syria, in this photo. Officials says monitors will stay in Syria despite criticism from Qatar’s prime minister that they had made ‘mistakes’ as Syria released more than 500 prisoners. AP photoThe Arab League has turned to the United Nations for technical help after admitting “mistakes” in its Syria monitoring mission, while saying it will not withdraw monitors until their month-long mission in the country ends.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who heads an Arab League task force on Syria, on Jan. 4 discussed the deadly protest crackdown with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York, Kuwait’s KUNA news agency reported. “We are coming here for technical help and to see the experience the U.N. has, because this is the first time the Arab League is involved in sending monitors, and there are some mistakes,” KUNA quoted Hamad as saying.
A U.N. spokesman said Ban and the sheikh “discussed practical measures by which the U.N. could support the observer mission of the Arab League in Syria.” The sheikh wouldn’t say what mistakes had been made. “This is the first experience for us. I said we have to evaluate what sorts of mistakes [have been made],” he said.
“There is no doubt for me. I can see there are mistakes, but we went there not to stop the killing but to monitor.” The monitors had done their best, but they do not have enough experience, Hamad said. “[That is why] we need the experience of the U.N. and we need to see how we can evaluate if they go back, how they will work.” Arab League ministers were to discuss the mission at a meeting tomorrow.
Call from Free Syrian Army to pullout mission
After the prime minister’s remarks, an Arab state government representative said the Arab League will not withdraw peace monitors from Syria until their month-long mission in the country ends. “It is impossible for the Arab League to withdraw its monitors, regardless of the content of any of [the mission’s] reports,” the representative said on condition of anonymity.
Arab League observers have been in Syria since Dec. 26 trying to assess the al-Assad regime’s implementation of a peace agreement aimed at ending violence. The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army also called on the Arab League to withdraw its observers from Syria, qualifying the bloc’s monitoring mission a failure. “We hope they will announce that their mission was a failure and that they will be withdrawn,” Colonel Riyadh al-Assad, said.
The al-Assad regime meanwhile released more than 500 prisoners accused of involvement in anti-regime activities, state TV reported yesterday, in what appeared to be another gesture to comply with the Arab League plan. Arab League Chief Nabil al-Araby said Jan. 3 Syria had released about 3,500 detainees in recent weeks. State television said yesterday another 552 had been released. But activists said Syria was still holding at least 25,000 political detainees.