Gulf states pull observers out of Syria
Gulf states on Tuesday followed Saudi Arabia’s lead in pulling their observers out of Syria, while urging the UN Security Council to pile pressure on Damascus to end its crackdown on dissent.
“Gulf Cooperation Council states have decided to follow Saudi Arabia’s decision to pull out its observers from the Arab League mission in Syria,” the six GCC countries announced in a joint statement.
They said their decision came after “closely following developments in Syria and after they confirmed that the bloodshed and killings there continue (and after) the Syrian regime did not comply with implementing the Arab League decisions.”
They also called on “members of the UN Security Council… to take all needed measures at the Security Council to press Syria to implement the Arab League decisions and the Arab initiative on Syria.”
The Arab League, meanwhile, said it has requested a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon so it can present its proposals on resolving the Syria crisis and demand support from the UN Security Council.
The request was issued jointly by the pan-Arab body’s secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi, and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, deputy secretary Ahmad bin Helli told AFP.
Kuwait’s Al-Qabas daily reported that the Gulf states will also take part in a high-level Arab delegation that will visit Russia to press Moscow to end its support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The GCC “countries are moving towards pulling all their monitors” out of Syria, the newspaper reported, because they don’t want observers to remain as “false witnesses to the crimes committed against civilians by the Syrian regime.”
“Syria is exploiting observers to fudge a solution to the crisis,” the newspaper said, quoting officials.
The report did not specify when the monitors would leave.
Saudi Arabia, the largest GCC member, decided on Sunday to pull its observers from a widely criticised Arab League mission to Syria. Other GCC members include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The Arab League, which met Sunday, adopted a proposal calling on Assad to step down in favour of his deputy, paving the way for a new national unity government and elections.
Damascus rejected the idea outright as a hostile interference in its national sovereignty.
Western nations are capitalising on the Arab League’s tough new stance to embark on a new diplomatic offensive to push the UN Security Council to take touch action on the Syrian crisis.
Germany’s UN ambassador Peter Wittig said it could mark a “game changer.”
Wittig and the UN ambassadors from Britain and France met counterparts from some Arab League nations late Monday to map the next moves at the UN, after Arab foreign ministers sought Security Council endorsement for their new plan.
The European countries have asked for the UN Security Council to request that Arab League chief Arabi brief the 15-member Security Council “as soon as possible”, diplomats said.
The Security Council has been blocked for months over Syria, where the UN says at least 5,400 people have died since protests against Assad erupted last March. Russia and China vetoed a proposed European resolution in October saying it was the first steps toward enforced regime change.
Wittig said the Arab League’s new plan for the Syria crisis “may be a game changer” in the diplomatic battle at the Security Council because the League sought UN backing for its whole plan which would force the council to discuss all elements including Assad’s future.
He called the Arab League plan “a really bold step.”