Syria may sign Arab peace plan by Monday
RIYADH / BEIRUT
Syrian schoolgirls hold national flags during a rally in support of regime in Damascus. AFP PhotoQatar has information that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will sign an Arab peace plan aimed at ending his crackdown on anti-government protests, al-Arabiya television reported yesterday, after the Arab League gave Damascus a deadline till Dec.21 to allow in observers.
Arabiya said Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani had said he had information Assad would sign the plan, but gave no further details. Sheikh Hamad heads an Arab ministerial committee on Syria.
Meanwhile, the Omani minister responsible for foreign affairs said yesterday that the Arab League is “optimistic” that by today Syria will sign a proposal to send an observer mission to the restive country. “We are optimistic that Syria will join the Arab League and sign the protocol within the next 24 hours,” Yussef bin Alawi told reporters in Riyadh.
The 22-member Arab bloc has been trying to persuade Damascus to accept observers to monitor the situation as part of a plan to end the bloodshed, Reuters reported. On November 27, the Arab bloc approved a raft of sanctions against Syria for failing to heed an ultimatum to admit observers. Earlier this month Syria finally said it would allow the mission, but laid down a number of conditions, including the lifting of sanctions. Alawi said the Arab League will meet Dec. 21 to discuss Syria. “If it doesn’t sign we will take decisions,” he added without elaborating. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani said on Saturday that the meeting will be held in Cairo and accused Damascus of stalling on the Arab League proposal.
He warned that the League would take Syria to the U.N. Security Council if it persisted in refusing to admit observers to monitor the protection of civilians. Baghdad’s foreign minister will lead an Iraqi initiative to end months of unrest in Syria by holding talks with the Damascus regime, opposition groups and the Arab League, an Iraqi official said yesterday. “We had very positive discussions on Sunday with the secretary general of the Arab League, who supported our initiative alongside that of the Arab League in an effort to find a solution between the Syrians,” National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayadh told Agence France-Presse.
“Our next step is to launch our initiative, and this task will be led by the foreign minister (Hoshyar Zebari) who will announce the details and mechanisms to the Arab League and the Syrian parties soon,” he said.
Armed clashes erupted in Syria yesterday, killing at least 14 civilians and six government troops in central and northern Syria, activists said, the latest sign that the nation’s uprising may be deteriorating into civil war, Associated Press reported. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an army officer was among the six soldiers killed in the town of Qusair in Homs province, near the border with Lebanon. Heavy gunbattles were also reported yesterday in several villages in the restive Jabal al-Zawiya region in the northern Idlib province near the Turkish border, where many defectors are believed to be operating.
The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the government crackdown on pro-democracy protests which erupted in mid-March.
Erdoğan: Syria is a dictatorship
ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency
“What is happening in Syria is a dictatorship exercise, and history never forgives dictators,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a joint press conference with Libya National Transition Council (NTC) head Mustafa Abdul Jalil in Istanbul Dec. 17. “People are being brutally killed in Syria now; these people are not the enemy but the real sons and daughters of Syria,” said Erdoğan. Speaking in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, Turkey’s Health Minister Recep Akdağ said he hoped the Syrian administration would allow Syrian people who needed medical help to enter Turkey.