January 29, 2012 in Nation/World

Monitors in Syria step aside

Arab League observers remain in country
Patrick J. Mcdonnell Los Angeles Times
 
U.N. talks hit bumps

The U.N. Security Council began closed-door negotiations Friday on a new Arab-European draft resolution aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis, but Russia’s envoy said he could not back the current language as it stands. Any resolution faces strong opposition from China and Russia, and both nations have veto power. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the proposed resolution has “red lines” for Moscow, but he’s willing to “engage” with the resolution’s sponsors.

Associated Press

BEIRUT – The Arab League said Saturday it was suspending its observer mission in Syria amid escalating violence that has left scores dead in recent days.

The decision is the latest sign that the 10-month-old crisis in Syria is worsening as diplomats at the United Nations prepare to consider a league-backed plan calling on President Bashar Assad to relinquish power.

In a statement, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby cited the “critical deterioration of the situation in Syria and the continued use of violence” as the reason for suspending the monitoring operation.

The monitors went into Syria last month amid some hopes that their presence could help stanch the bloodshed that began in March when pro-democracy protesters rose up against the Assad government. The monitors’ task was to ensure that the government was complying with a league-backed peace blueprint that, among other things, called for the regime to withdraw troops from cities and other populated areas.

Some opposition activists have dismissed the observer operation as a means for Assad to buy more time for his beleaguered administration. Still, the observers were welcomed when they arrived last month.

But in recent days, the violence appears to have flared on both sides and the observers have found it hard to do their job.

The 100 or so monitors will remain in Syria but won’t make field visits to trouble spots, the league said, leaving open the possibility that the mission could resume.

It was unclear from the league’s statement if the mission was suspended because of safety concerns or displeasure at stepped-up government attacks, notably in opposition centers such as the cities of Homs and Hama and various suburbs of the capital, Damascus. The Syrian government has said it must respond to what it calls “terrorist” attacks.

The league has been harshly critical of Assad, and six Persian Gulf nations recently withdrew their monitors and excoriated the government for what the six monarchies called Syria’s continued reliance on force.

The Syrian government on Saturday assailed the decision to suspend the monitor mission, labeling it “an escalation against Syria that reflects the persistence of some member countries in supporting armed terrorist groups,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus