Arab League: Monitors in Syria by month's end

"Syrian conflict too complex for Western involvement," League chief Nabil Elaraby says.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
December 20, 2011 15:57
3 minute read.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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The Arab League chief said on Tuesday monitors will arrive in Syria by the end of December on an unprecedented mission to assess whether Damascus is implementing an Arab plan to end a bloody crackdown on protests, after weeks of Syrian stalling.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby's comments came a day after Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to a league plan to send Arab monitors to the embattled country.

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"I can say with some assurance but not certainty that before the end of next week they (monitors) will all be there," Elaraby told Reuters, adding it was the first such mission since the League was set up in 1945.

A small advance team, led by a top League official, will head to Damascus on Thursday to prepare for the mission, he said. Once the monitors are in place, the assessment on whether Syria is in compliance could be made swiftly.

The monitoring operation will be led by a Sudanese general with experience of peacekeeping operations and will include members from Arab states and non-governmental organizations. Members of the media will also accompany them.

Elaraby also spoke with Egyptian daily Al Shorouk on Tuesday, insisting that the original resolve of the plan was intact and that Syrian amendments did not change the nature of the observers' mission.

Elaraby explained that monitors would hail from Arab countries, adding that some may be from Muslim countries as well. Their goal will be to provide protection for Syrian civilians so that opposition groups and the Assad government may carry out a dialogue for planning Syria's future ruling power and ending the nine-month violent conflict.

The Arab League chief failed to detail exactly which countries would send observers.



He contended that Western powers will not likely intervene to stop the crisis in Syria because of the "complexity" of the issue.

"There won't be repeat of scenario we saw in Libya in Syria," Elaraby said, referring to the military assistance provided by NATO to Libyan rebels who overthrew the regime of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Elaraby was citing fears that a military intervention in Syria would drag the region into a larger conflict due to Damascus's allies and enemies in close proximity. Libya is more territorially isolated.

The Arab League chief said the Syrian opposition "has not matured yet," saying the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a coalition of some 40 opposition groups, is unable to change the facts on the ground.

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The United States Monday reacted skeptically to Syria's agreement to allow an Arab state to monitor Syrian compliance with an Arab League peace agreement designed to stop the violence in the country.

Opposition activists said at least 114 people were killed in clashes Monday, Al Jazeera reported. According to the Syrian Revolution General Commission 80 army defectors were among the dead.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have died since the protests began. Syria says more than 1,100 security personnel have been killed by foreign-backed "armed terrorist gangs".

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States wanted to see Syria carry through with the Arab League peace plan, saying Syrian officials had failed to keep agreements too often in the past to be taken at their word.

"We have seen too many broken promises from the Syrian regime," she told reporters. "So we are really less interested in a signed piece of paper than we are in actions to implement commitments made."

The Syrian opposition dismissed the agreement as a new stalling tactic and called instead for military intervention to stop Syria's crackdown on a nine-month-old anti-government protest movement.

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