Gulf leaders to meet for 1st time since Arab Spring

Preparing for summit in Saudi Arabia, Gulf Arab officials are hopeful Assad will sign Arab League peace deal.

December 19, 2011 02:12
1 minute read.
Anti-Assad protests in Homs, Syria

Anti-Assad protests in Homs, Syria 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout)

RIYADH - Gulf Arab officials, preparing for a summit on Monday in Saudi Arabia, have expressed hope that Syrian President Bashar Assad would finally sign an Arab League peace deal aimed at ending a crackdown on protests and averting a civil war.

The crisis in Syria and a dispute with Iran will likely be high on the agenda of the meeting of Gulf Arab leaders in the Saudi capital Riyadh, their first summit since Arab uprisings transformed the Middle East this year.

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After six weeks of Syrian stalling, Qatar said it had information Assad would sign the plan, which calls for withdrawing the army from towns that have turned against him, freeing thousands of political prisoners, starting dialogue with the opposition and letting monitors into the country.

"We have information that indicates that he will sign the initiative. If this is true or not true we'll see," Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said in Riyadh, in remarks carried by al-Arabiya Television.

"If they don't sign we will take the matter to the Security Council to adopt all the resolutions which have been taken by the Arab League," Sheikh Hamad told reporters.

Omani Foreign Minister Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah said: "We are optimistic that Syria will join the Arab League in signing the protocol, which is ready now, within 24 hours."

"That is what we hope for. If not, the Arab League foreign ministers will meet on Wednesday to consider measures that might be taken in the future," he said in Riyadh on Sunday afternoon.

The Arab League has suspended Syria's membership and announced sanctions over Assad's refusal so far to sign up to its peace plan.

Arab ministers are set to meet later this week and could decide to submit their plan to the UN Security Council, making it a potential basis for wider international action.

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