Arab League to Press UN Security Council on Syria
The Arab League was set Friday to approach the United Nations Security Council to take immediate action to protect the civilians in Syria.
“The Arab League will assign its Arab representatives in the UN Security Council in the meeting set to take place May 5 to ask the Security Council to protect Syrian civilians immediately,” a final statement said after an Arab League meeting.
The statement reportedly dropped a reference included in an earlier draft to Chapter 7 of the Security Council charter, which allows it to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.
Nonetheless, the option of invoking Chapter 7 vis-a-vis Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's 13-month brutal crackdown on the popular uprising in his country has become increasingly common in diplomatic circles.
French foreign minister Alain Juppe on Thursday said Paris was discussing invoking Chapter 7 in Syria. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton also made a reference to Chapter 7 in comments related to Syria as well.
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday, while not mentioning Chapter 7, told lawmakers in Ankara that the government was mulling the possibility of creating a buffer-zone on the Syrian side of the border to protect refugees. Turkey's border regions with Syria have been inundated with refugees fleeing Assad's crackdown.
Earlier on Friday, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi yesterday said he had asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to expedite the dispatching of observers to Syria to monitor the ceasefire.
“The UN is faltering on sending the observers to Syria”, al-Arabi told the opening session of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. “Violence and killing have not stopped in Syria”.
He proposed that Ban send military observers who are currently serving in UN missions in the Middle East to Syria.
The Arab League statement comes two weeks after the UN-backed ceasefire brokered by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan fails to take hold.
The ceasefire, which was set to go into effect two weeks ago, has only been tentatively observed by Assad's government. There have been daily reports of ceasefire violations by government forces, and sporadic skirmishes with rebel fighters.
Earlier this week in New York, UN peacekeeping officials noted that 11 of the intended 30-strong advance team of unarmed military observers to monitor the April 12 ceasefire were already on the ground.
On Saturday, the Security Council expanded the UN observer force to 300, the first 100 to be deployed within a month.
The UN said the rest of the advance team and the chief military observer will arrive in Syria on next Monday.
However, the presence of peacekeepers has not deterred Assad from pursuing his crackdown, leading Annan to describe the situation on the ground in Syria as "bleak" and call for an accelerated timetable for deploying the entire peacekeeping force.
There have been reports of government forces arresting Syrians who approach the peacekeepers, as well as military raids on rebel strongholds and dissident neighborhoods shortly after the peacekeepers depart.
On Thursday, the peacekeepers re-deployed to Douma just one day after visiting the city due to reports the government had raided the town after they left.
Meanwhile, twin explosions outside Baquba city in Iraq's Diyala province killed nine people and wounded 21, according to Iraqi officials. The tolls were confirmed by a medic at the Baquba General Hospital.
The first attack late on Thursday was set off by a suicide car bomber outside a packed cafe located in Garma village, near Baquba, the interior ministry said.
Within a few minutes another bomb exploded inside the cafe. Being Thursday evening – which marks the start of the Arab weekend – the cafe was packed with customers.
Thursday's attack came a week after a wave of blasts killed dozens in the capital, Kirkuk and Samara.
The Assad government says the rebel SFA – which it claims are "foreign terrorists" linked to al-Qaeda – are behind the spate of bombings that have rocked Syria in recent months.
Military analysts say the SFA, which is comprised of Syrian army defectors led by senior officers who have taken refuge in Turkey, do not have the organizational or technical capacity to mount "al-Qaeda style" precision bombings.
Instead, SFA forces have focused on mounting deadly guerilla style hit-and-run raids and ambushes. Nor have they been known, unlike Assad's forces, to target civilians to date.
Syrian opposition figures and allied lawmakers in Lebanon charge that Assad's pervasive security police are conducting the bombings themselves as a "false flag" operation aimed at discrediting the SFA while continuing the bloody crackdown that has left no fewer than 9,100 civilians dead.
Al-Qaeda and its terror affiliates in the region have denied any involvement in the bombings in Syria.