Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Arab League Suspends Syria

The Arab League has suspended Syria until President Bashar al-Assad implements an Arab deal to end violence against protesters, and called for sanctions and transition talks with the opposition. The League has long been seen by tens of millions of people throughout West Asia and North Africa as toothless and a puppet of the despots, dictators, and absolute monarchs who comprise the majority of its governments. This time 18 of the 22 members voted for the proposal at an emergency meeting in Cairo, with three — Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon — voting against and Iraq abstaining. The immediate cause of the vote is the failure by Damascus to abide by its own November 2 assent to an earlier League plan to end the violence, which the United Nations estimates has caused more than 3,500 deaths since the protests began in March.
A statement, read by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani, said the Arab League decided “to suspend Syrian delegations’ activities in Arab League meetings” if it continued to stall the Arab plan and to implement “economic and political sanctions against the Syrian Government.” It also called for the withdrawal of Arab ambassadors from Damascus, but left the decision to each Arab state.
The statement warned that Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi would contact international organizations concerned with human rights, “including the United Nations,” if the bloodshed continued. It called for a meeting in Cairo with Syrian opposition groups in three days to “agree a unified vision for the coming transitional period in Syria.”
A week of deadly violence in city of Homs had overshadowed the meeting, in which Arab ministers appeared divided on what measure to take but eventually voted by majority on the final statement.
Assad’s regime agreed on November 2 to an Arab road map, which called for the release of detainees, the withdrawal of the army from urban areas and free movement for observers and the media, as well as negotiations with the opposition.
Instead, human rights groups say the regime has intensified its crackdown on dissent, especially in flashpoint Homs, killing at least 125 people in the city since signing onto the League’s deal.
Saudi Arabia, which is extremely hostile to Iranian influence in Syria and to democracy in the region, advocates encouraging Sunni Islamist forces, and this would also marginalize moderate Syrian Sunnis. This suits North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members very well. Those Western powers whose leaders, facing severe domestic problems and needing some high-profile foreign adventurism, suborned the United Nations Security Council into voting for the violent and destructive intervention against Muammar Gaddhafi know that Russia and China will rightly veto any such resolution on Syria; but now the West can look uninvolved and can expect little criticism for its silence over continuing state brutality in Bahrain and Yemen.
Growing Death Toll
The UN human rights office said that more than 3,500 people have been killed in the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown on dissent, deploring the slaughter that went on despite a peace plan. The brutal crackdown on the dissent in Syria has so far claimed the lives of more than 3,500 Syrians.
More than 60 people are reported to have been killed by military and security forces since Syria signed the peace plan sponsored by the league of Arab states, including at least 19 on Eid al-Adha.
The Arab roadmap calls for an end to violence, the release of those detained, the withdrawal of the army from urban areas and free movement for observers and the media, as well as talks between the regime and opposition.
EU Extends Sanctions
European Union (EU) governments agreed have to extend sanctions against Syria to 18 more individuals associated with its violent crackdown on dissent, but signaled that Western military action against the government was unlikely for now.
EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, also sought to increase economic pressure on President Bashar al-Assad by approving plans to stop Syria accessing funds from EU’s European Investment Bank (EIB).
The EU has already placed sanctions on 56 Syrians and 19 organizations in its effort to get Assad to halt his bloody crackdown on the eight-month uprising, and has banned the import into the EU of Syrian crude oil.
EU leaders warned last month that Syria could face new sanctions if there was no halt to the violence, in which the United Nations says more than 3,500 protesters have died. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there was a good case for further extending EU measures, which from 15 November will affect 74 individuals and 19 firms and entities.
Syria’s Reaction
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that the government in Damascus will not budge despite its suspension from the Arab League, which he warned was a “dangerous step.” Muallem’s comments come after the Arab League announced a fresh meeting on Syria and as global pressure, including a threat of new sanctions, intensified on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime over its lethal crackdown on protests. “The decision of the Arab League to suspend Syria... represents a dangerous step,” Muallem added.
The foreign minister said: “Today there is a crisis in Syria which pays the price of its strong positions. Syria will not budge and will emerge stronger... And plots against Syria will fail,” said the minister. Muallem said Syria’s government was not concerned about the likelihood of foreign military intervention in the country, due to the opposition of China and Russia. He added: “Syria is not Libya. The Libyan scenario will not be repeated; what is happening in Syria is different from what happened in Libya and the Syrian people should not worry.”

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