DOHA- The Arab League (AL) called for a time limit on the UN mission to avoid further bloodshed. The AL Delegates at Saturday’s special meeting condemned the massacre in Houla.
They also called for an investigation into the killings. The meeting also called on Arab countries to recall their diplomats in Syria.
Chaired by Qatar, the
ministerial committee members also include Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman,
Saudi Arabia and Sudan. The AL ministerial meeting also urges all parties in Syria to stop violence immediately to protect civilians. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who chaired the meeting, said Annan should set a time limit for his mission instead of waiting.
At the meeting Annan gave a bleak assessment of the Syrian situation. He warned an all-out war was growing in likelihood by the day, risking drawing in the whole region.
The ministers urged the “Security Council to assume
responsibilities according to the UN charter, and take all necessary measures
to secure the full and immediate implementation of the plan of the joint envoy,
Kofi Annan, in a set timeframe,” in a statement at the end of the meeting.
These actions include “imposing the implementation of the six points of the
plan through resorting to Chapter VII of the UN charter,” it said, listing the
non-military measures provided for in Article 41 of the chapter.
The Arab League secretary general told reporters the ministers “did not request
a military action”.
The head of the Arab League has asked the UN Security Council to boost the size of a UN mission in Syria and give it expanded powers to protect people following a surge in violence there, according to a letter leaked to media outlets on Friday.
Nabil Elaraby, secretary-general of the Arab League, condemned the attacks in a letter to the Security Council.
"I therefore urge you to move quickly to end all acts of violence taking place in Syria, and to take the necessary measures to protect Syrian civilians, including increasing the number of international monitors and allowing them the necessary powers to put a stop to the violations and crimes being committed," Elaraby said in the letter.
Images of the bloodied bodies of children and others massacred in the city of Houla in attacks blamed on President Bashar al-Assad's forces have shocked the world and highlighted the failure of a 6-week-old UN-backed cease-fire plan to stop the violence in the 14-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Elaraby, who has said the violence was intended to undercut a truce brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan t hat never took hold, is struggling to keep alive Annan's six-point peace plan and avert full-scale civil war in Syria. His letter was first reported by Lebanon's LBCI television and confirmed by Reuters. Security Council diplomats in New York said they received the letter, although it was not immediately clear how they would react.
Elaraby's suggestion of giving the UN mission the power "to take the necessary measures to protect Syrian civilians" might not be acceptable to Russia, which has a veto on the 15-nation council. That is similar to language the council used last year to authorise military intervention in Libya, which Russia did not veto but has criticised ever since. Russia has vowed to prevent Syria from becoming another Libya, where it says Nato air strikes provided support to rebels and led to "regime change."
According to the regional mass media, the Pan-Arab organisation also suggested expanding the mission's powers to protect Syrian people. Al-Arabi denounced in his letter the mass killings of residents in the Syrian village of Houla.
"I call on you to respond quickly to stop violence in Syria and to take necessary measure to protect its citizens," he noted. In the words of the Arab League secretary-general, it is necessary "to increase the number of international observers", mandating them powers, necessary for halting violence.
It was also not clear whether the Syrian government would consent to an expansion of the mission, known as UNSMIS, or allows it to be armed, which would make the monitors more like peacekeepers than unarmed observers. The monitoring force only has a mandate to monitor compliance with Annan's peace plan and report violations to the United Nations.
But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council in a letter last week that "United Nations observers are facing increasing criticism for not stopping the violence and, in some quarters, even being blamed for an increase."
"There is a misconception, difficult to correct, about the role of unarmed military observers and what they can and cannot do," he said. "This puts the United Nations presence on the group in a perilous position." One option under discussion in New York is to expand the UN observer mission in Syria and bolster its mandate by allowing "blue berets" to carry weapons, UN diplomats say.
It is unclear whether that would be acceptable to Damascus.
The Arab League sent its own monitors to Syria late last year to check compliance with an earlier peace plan, but withdrew them in January when violence intensified. The 90-day mandate of the 300-strong unarmed observer force will expire around July 20. One Western diplomat said the world body would then have to decide whether to renew the mission, expand it or scrap it altogether. "It's going to be a kind of moment of truth for the Security Council, whether to press ahead with the Annan plan or abandon it," the diplomat said.