Syria Says It Will Allow Arab Observer Mission, with Caveats
Syria said Monday it would agree to allow an Arab mission of military and civilian observers into the country as part of an Arab League proposal to end months of bloodshed there, but attached a number of conditions, among them the cancelation of economic sanctions decreed by the league.
The Arab League secretary general, Nabil al-Araby, said that he had received a letter from Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem of Syria detailing the new conditions and that Arab officials were studying them. But he suggested that the offer would provide no breakthrough in the diplomatic dispute between Syria and its Arab brethren over the Syrian conflict, now in its ninth month.
“The conditions contained new elements that we have not heard before,” Mr. Araby told reporters in Cairo. He added that even if Syria agreed to let the monitors in, the League would not immediately revoke its punitive measures. “These sanctions are in force until another decision is adopted by the Arab foreign ministers.”
Since the beginning, Syria has sought to negotiate the league’s proposal to send as many as 500 monitors, conditionally agreeing, but then seeking amendments to a plan that Syrian officials had said would undermine the government’s sovereignty.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday that Mr. Mouallem had sought small changes unrelated to the substance of the plan as well as more clarifications, including the nationalities and names of the observers. His position suggested that the amendments were more minor than Mr. Araby had implied.
“The protocol is intended to be signed soon,” the spokesman, Jihad al-Makdesi, told reporters in Damascus. “The Syrian government has responded positively to the draft protocol. I am optimistic, although I await the Arab League response first.”
Even if Syria agrees to monitors, it is unclear over how assertive they could be.
“I highly doubt that they will let observers in, and if they do they are going to be taken to places were there are supporters,” a 32 year-old resident of Damascus who gave her name as Samah said. “They are just buying time.”