Syria signs Arab League initiative to admit monitors

Assad regime signs deal which calls for withdrawal of army from towns, starting dialogue with opposition; China voices support for Russian UNSC resolution on Syria.

December 19, 2011 13:31
2 minute read.
Syrian President Bashar Assad

Syrian President Bashar Assad 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/SANA/Handout)

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem said Monday that Damascus will welcome monitors from Arab countries after his deputy signed an Arab League peace initiative in Cairo aimed at ending a nine-month crackdown on protests against President Bashar Assad's rule.

A Reuters witness saw Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad sign the protocol at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo and a League diplomat confirmed it had been inked.

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Syria has stalled for weeks over signing the protocol on monitors, although it had agreed to other parts of the plan. The League suspended Syria from the pan-Arab body and announced sanctions against Damascus.

The initiative calls for withdrawing the army from towns, freeing thousands of political prisoners, starting dialogue with the opposition and letting monitors into the country.

China voices support for Russian resolution on Syria

China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday it supported a new, beefed-up draft resolution on the violence in Syria presented by Russia to the UN Security Council last week.

The proposal offers a chance for the 15-nation panel to overcome deadlock and deliver its first statement of purpose on Assad's crackdown on nine months of protests which has killed 5,000 people according to the UN and provoked Western and Arab League sanctions on Damascus.

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The council has been split, with Western countries harshly critical of Syria pitted against Russia, China and non-aligned countries that have avoided blaming Assad for the violence.

Long-time Syrian ally and arms supplier Russia took a step closer to the Western position last Thursday when it presented a surprise draft resolution at the United Nations which stepped up its criticism of the bloodshed in Syria.

"If there are discussions at the Security Council on the Syrian situation they should be conducive towards ameliorating the tense state of affairs, pushing political dialogue, bridging differences and maintaining peace and stability in the region," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.

"China supports the Russian proposal and applauds Russia's hard work at trying to resolve the Syrian crisis, and is willing to maintain contacts with all sides on this," he told a regular news briefing, without elaborating.

China has played a low-key role in the turmoil that has swept the Middle East and North Africa, but it has also moved swiftly to normalize ties with governments which have been overthrown by popular revolts, such as in Libya.

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