ISTANBUL – A deadline the Arab League had set for Syria to sign a deal allowing observers into the country to monitor whether the government was adhering to a peace plan expired Friday without any Syrian response, setting the stage for the league to impose sanctions on the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Turkey’s foreign minister said his country would coordinate with the Arab League on imposing sanctions, an indication of the extent to which the international community has lined up to force Assad to end his bloody crackdown on anti-government demonstrators, which has taken the lives of an estimated 3,500 people. Turkey once was considered a close Assad ally.
“There is excellent coordination between Turkey and the Arab League,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a news conference he held with Jordan’s foreign minister. “We share every step we make and every position we develop.”
Davutoglu said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan would attend a meeting of Arab League finance ministers today to decide what to do next and that he himself would participate in a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers tentatively set for Sunday.
There were few signs, however, that the threats of further international isolation had moved Assad and his supporters. Syria’s state-run SANA news agency accused the Arab League of being a “tool for foreign interference.” The country’s military announced that it would “cut every evil hand that targets Syrian blood” on Friday in what appeared to be a pledge to step up pressure on anti-government demonstrators.
Violence has been escalating in recent weeks as opposition forces increasingly target pro-Assad security forces after months of harsh government repression, and there are fears that civil war could wrack Syria.
Syria has agreed to remove its military from restive cities, but it’s balked at Arab League insistence that it allow 500 observers into the country to monitor the government’s adherence to the terms of the peace plan.