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Arab League calls on Syria to 'stop bloodshed and resort to reason'--Damascus ignores Arab League council's statement--Syrian envoy talks about 'militant and terrorist groups'--Syrian oppositionists say league's decisions didn't fulfill people's demands--Gul says turkey 'lost trust' in Assad's regime--Erdogan: 'no place for repressive regimes in this age'.

--Arab League Calls on Syria to 'Stop Bloodshed and Resort to Reason'

---Damascus Ignores Arab League Council's Statement

--Syrian Envoy Talks about 'Militant and Terrorist Groups'

--Syrian Oppositionists Say League's Decisions Didn't Fulfill People's Demands

--Gul Says Turkey 'Lost Trust' in Assad's Regime

--Erdogan: 'No Place for Repressive Regimes in this Age'

The Arab League council held a two-day meeting on Saturday to discuss the ongoing crises in Syria and Libya. In a statement that was released at the end of its meeting on Sunday, the gathering called on Damascus "to stop bloodshed and resort to reason before it is too late", the pan-Arab daily ASHARQ AL AWSAT reported Monday. The statement, which was carried by the daily, said the council strongly expressed its "concern regarding the dangerous developments taking place on the Syrian landscape which have left thousands of dead and wounded." The statement underlined "the need to stop bloodshed and resort to reason before it is too late, respect the rights of Syrian people to enjoy a decent and safe life and their legitimate aspirations and to see political, economic and social reforms implemented." The statement also highlighted Syria's stability considering it "a primary pillar in the Arab region".

The statement ended by saying "as part of its keenness to resolve the Syrian crisis, the council called on the Secretary General of the Arab League [Nabil Elaraby] to make an urgent visit to Damascus carrying with him an Arab initiative to solve the crisis to the Syrian leadership." The statement also called on the secretary general to keep the council convened for the purpose of following up the Syrian developments". Syria rejected the Arab League council's statement and considered that "it was not published at all" the daily reported. Syria's permanent envoy to the Arab League and its Ambassador to Cairo, Yusuf al-Ahmed, wondered during the session "how the Arab and Muslim brother [Syria] has become more threatening than the real enemy, Israel, which is targeting our security and stability in addition to our existence as Arabs."

This was the first official Arab League meeting on Syria since the popular uprising started in mid-March. The League, which groups the Arab world's 22 states, has been under pressure to speak out more openly following popular uprisings that ousted Arab presidents in Tunisia and Egypt and overthrew the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

ASHARQ AL AWSAT said that at the time when Syria expressed its reticence over the Arab League statement, Elaraby announced his readiness to visit Damascus once he receives permission from the Syrian leadership. Elaraby's visit seeks to convince the Syrian regime to accept the Arab initiative that was released by the council on Saturday and which was clothed in secrecy, ASHARQ AL AWSAT reported. The daily cited unnamed sources as saying that the Arab initiative mainly focuses on "Syria's acceptance to stop the shooting immediately, release prisoners and start a political reform process." Regarding the part concerning the reform process, the sources highlighted the need to amend Article 8 of the Syrian constitution which stipulates that the [ruling] Arab Socialist Baath Party in Syria "is the leading group in the society and state."

Moreover, ASHARQ AL AWSAT explained that Arab foreign ministers reviewed a proposal presented by Qatari foreign minister, Hamad Bin Jassem and Omani Foreign Minister, Yusuf Bin Alawi, to form a ministerial Arab committee that would visit Syria and carry out a tour of different Syrian cities before taking any fitting decision regarding the Syrian crisis. However, Syrian rebuffed the proposal. However, the daily said the [unnamed] diplomatic source denied the existence of an Arab initiative and explained that Elaraby's visit will be made for the purpose of presenting to the Syrian leadership the results of the meetings that took place over the weekend.

ASHARQ AL AWSAT cited other unnamed sources as saying that the Arab League council's session witnessed strong tensions especially when Syria's envoy, Yusuf al-Ahmed, presented a documentary film revealing what he called "militant gangs" horrifying Syrian citizens, security forces and members from the Syrian army. Ahmed was leading the Syrian delegation to the Arab League council meeting on Saturday.

Syrian Dailies

Two Syrian dailies, Tishreen and Al Baath, deemed the Arab League session "unusual" and focused their coverage of the meeting on statements issued by the Syrian envoy. Ahmed said, "The Syrian authority's responsiveness to the popular demands has helped control the waves of popular movements in a number of cities. However, such a result coincided with the emergence of outlaws and groups affiliated with wellknown political and religious groups which took positions in border cities and villages." He added, "Those groups incited people to confront the national institutions tasked with protecting the country's security. These confrontations cannot be labeled peaceful protests, but an ugly and aggressive exploitation for the slogans raised during the peaceful demonstrations. ..." The Syrian ambassador warned that that "these militant and terrorist groups have been receiving orders from foreign countries". He also pointed out that more than 600 security men and soldiers have been killed and 2,000 others wounded.

Syrian Opposition

In the meantime, Syrian oppositionists in Cairo said that the Arab League's decisions "did not fulfill the demands of the Syrian people who have been maintaining their uprising for five months against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad," ASHARQ AL AWSAT said in a separate report. However, the opposition welcomed the position of the Arab foreign ministers over the ongoing bloody violence in Syria and the proposal by which an Arab ministerial committee would be sent to Syria to review the crisis. The oppositionists described Syria's rejection of such a proposal as "shameful" and called for an Arab intervention to impose an air embargo on Syria."

Turkey's President

In light of the continuing Syrian crisis, Turkey has once again, expressed its exasperation over the Syrian regime's unwillingness to fulfill its promises to carry out reforms. The pan-Arab daily ASHARQ AL AWSAT quoted Turkish President, Abdullah Gul as saying that the Syrian crisis "has reached the point of no return" and unnamed sources told the daily that Ankara will support any resolution taken by the UN Security Council against Damascus if the current situation in Syria does not change.

Gul said, "The situation [in Syria] has reached a point where nothing is sufficient anymore, because it is too late". He pointed to the promises that had been made by President Assad and which have not yet been fulfilled. The Turkish President said his country "made remarkable efforts to achieve the democratic transition in the country [Syria]" adding that Turkey has "lost confidence" in the Syrian regime. Gul was also quoted as saying that "the era of closed and repressive regimes ruled by one party, has come to an end in light of the current situation in the world. These regimes will be either changed through positive initiatives taken by their rulers, or they will be forced to change due to the pressures exerted on them by citizens yearning for freedom and democracy." He added, "It is clear that we have reached the point where everything is too little, too late. Everyone needs to know that we are standing by the side of the Syrian people," Gul said.


For his part, Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned Syrian officials in a televised address to the nation that they might face the same fate which ousted leaders in the Arab world witnessed in 2011. The Beirut daily AN NAHAR quoted him as saying "A regime cannot survive by brute force, by shooting and killing unarmed people taking to the streets. The only situation is to silence arms immediately and listen to the demands of the people." He added, "We saw the end of those who did not choose this way in Tunisia and Egypt, and now we observe with sorrow what is being lived in Libya." Ankara, whose ties with Damascus have flourished in recent years, has repeatedly called on President Assad to initiate reforms, but has stopped short of calling for his departure.
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Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7SYRI
Date:Aug 29, 2011
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