Arab League to the Syrians: Fight On
Published Thursday, March 7, 2013
The Arab League proceeded with measures on Wednesday to openly support the arming of the Syrian opposition, as well as providing future assurances of giving the opposition a seat in the body.
It is no longer a secret that most of the Arab countries – and particularly the oil-rich Gulf states – are knee deep in the bloodletting taking place in Syria. If there was ever any doubt, the Arab League has taken the step of openly encouraging sending arms to the opposition.
In a 6 March Arab League meeting held in Cairo, the Arab foreign ministers – with a few exceptions – talked openly about arming the Syrian opposition and discussed the possibility of giving Syria’s seat in the organization to the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC).
Perhaps it was US Secretary of State John Kerry’s tour of the region that prompted the Arab ministers to openly support and encourage the continued arming of the opposition in their struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The meeting’s closing statement, which was opposed by Algeria and Iraq (with Lebanon abstaining), declared that “the Arab countries have the right to offer military assistance to the Syrian opposition who are fighting the Syrian armed forces, if they wish to do so.”
It further asked the opposition SNC “to form an executive body in order to assume Syria’s seat at the Arab League so that it can participate in the Arab Summit scheduled to take place in Doha on March 26-27.”
Diplomatic sources told Al-Akhbar that it was Qatar’s foreign minister Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani who proposed giving Syria’s seat to the opposition alliance. This led to a legal debate in which the League’s general secretary, Nabil al-Arabi, argued that the seat can only be assumed by a representative of a sovereign nation.
“It is true that we have recognized the Coalition as representative of the Syrian people,” Arabi said, “and we know it controls parts of Syria. But sovereignty requires a framework to give expression to it.”
The Qatari foreign minister responded by saying that “you’re talking about the necessity of abiding by the law, while Bashar al-Assad breaks all the laws on a daily basis – why do we not break the law just this once and give the seat to the SNC now?”
In the end, the ministers agreed to postpone such a step until after the SNC has formed an executive body, which can be considered as equivalent to a government, thus giving them the right to take Syria’s seat at the Arab League.
For its part, Damascus responded by opposing any role for the Arab League in resolving the Syrian crisis, accusing the organization – which it said was controlled by the Gulf sheikhdoms – of being biased toward the opposition from the very beginning.
The Syrian government statement, nevertheless, added that it is still committed “to cooperating positively with constructive international efforts to find a solution.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.