Arab League Syria mission has failed to stop bloodshed: PM
BEIRUT THE Arab League repeated its demand on Sunday for the Syrian government to immediately stop all violence and allow more monitors in, as activists reported at least 10 more civilians killed by regime forces including two teenagers.
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al Thani said the ministers did not agree to call for UN experts to join the observers’ mission in Syria but they would ask UN experts to train the monitors before going in.
“Even if they had called for the UN experts to go in, Syria’s regime may well have blocked them,” he added.
The prime minister told reporters after the meeting that the League is aware that the mission has not fulfilled its goal of stopping the bloodshed.
“Is what happened, ideal? We want to do more,” he said. “We know that the Syrian people have made a decision, but what we want is to lessen the losses, human losses,” he said.
Five foreign ministers from the 22-member Arab League, who met in Cairo, also said the 165 Arab League monitors already on the ground in Syria need greater independence from the regime.
The ministerial committee called on “the Syrian government and various armed groups to immediately halt all forms of violence and to return to protesting peacefully for the success of the Arab League observers’ mission in Syria.” Fierce clashes in the south between government troops and military defectors killed 11 soldiers dead, activists said. The Arab League also called on other armed parties to halt all bloodshed, an apparent reference to the defectors.
The monitors are supposed to be ensuring Syrian compliance with a plan to end the government’s crackdown on dissent. The Arab League plan calls on Syria to remove heavy weaponry, such as tanks, from all cities, free all political prisoners and allow in human rights organizations and foreign journalists. Syria agreed to the plan on Dec. 19.
But opposition activists say around 450 people have been killed by President Bashar Assad’s regime since observers began work in Syria nearly two weeks ago. The opposition charges that the regime is misleading the 165 observers and that the mission had done nothing to resolve the crisis.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al Araby said observers will continue their monthlong mission in Syria, despite claims by activists that the mission is giving cover to Assad’s crackdown on protesters and delaying further action from being taken.
According to the UN, more than 5,000 people have been killed since March when mostly peaceful anti-government protests began.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 11 soldiers died in intense fighting in the town of Basr al-Harir in southern Daraa province. More than 20 troops were wounded.
In Homs, seven civilians were killed by troops raiding houses and pro-government snipers on rooftops. A 15-year-old boy was among seven civilians killed, the Observatory said.
The Arab League said it needs more monitors in Syria, but did not name an exact number.
Initially, the League had requested to send 500 monitors, but so far Syria has allowed in just 165.