Saudis pull Syria monitors, urge world pressure

Statement from FM Prince Saud al-Faisal comes after BBC reports Arab League rules to extend mission in Syria by 1 month.

January 22, 2012 19:43
2 minute read.
Arab League monitors in Syria

Arab League monitors in Syria 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/via Reuters Tv/Handout)

Saudi Arabia will withdraw its observers from Syria because the mission has failed to end 10 months of bloodshed and will call on the international community to apply "all possible pressure" on Damascus to end the violence, its foreign minister said Sunday.

"My country will withdraw its monitors because the Syrian government did not execute any of the elements of the Arab resolution plan," Prince Saud al-Faisal told Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo. The statement was obtained by Reuters after he spoke.

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"We are calling on the international community to bear its responsibility, and that includes our brothers in Islamic states and our friends in Russia, China, Europe and the United States," Prince Saud said, calling for "all possible pressure" to push Syria to adhere to the Arab peace plan.

The Saudi statement came after the BBC reported that the Arab League had ruled to extend its monitoring mission in Syria by one month on Sunday. The League also decided to add more monitoring members to the mission and to provide them with additional resources, according to the report.

Hundreds of Syrians have been killed since the monitoring mission began its work in late December and political opponents of President Bashar Assad are demanding the League refer Syria to the United Nations Security Council.

The foreign ministers met Sunday to debate the findings of the month-long monitoring mission, whose mandate expired on Thursday, to decide whether to extend, withdraw or strengthen it.

Arab states had been divided over how to handle the crisis in Syria and critics say the monitoring mission is handing Assad more time to kill opponents of his rule.

Some wanted to crank up pressure on Assad to end a 10-month-old crackdown on a popular revolt in which, according to the United Nations, more than 5,000 people have died.

Others worry that weakening Assad could tip Syria, with its potent mix of religious and ethnic allegiances, into a deeper conflict that would destabilize the entire region, and some may fear the threat from their own populations if he were toppled.

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) says the observers lack the resources and clout to truly judge Assad's compliance with an Arab peace plan that Syria signed up to in November and has called upon the Arab League to refer the Syrian crisis to the United Nations Security Council.

But Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia told the head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, that they would oppose such a move, a League source said on Sunday.

"The three states support solving the Syrian crisis inside the Arab League," the source told Reuters.

The head of the monitoring effort, Sudanese General Mohammed al-Dabi, was presenting his findings to the League's Syria committee.

Syrian opposition activists said Assad's forces killed 35 civilians on Saturday and 30 unidentified corpses were found at a hospital in Idlib. The state news agency SANA said bombs killed at least 14 prisoners and two security personnel in a security vehicle in Idlib province.

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