Syria Reportedly Rejects Arab League Peace Plan
Faced with the failure of its observer mission to curb the violence here as the stark features of a civil war emerge, the Arab League on Sunday unexpectedly floated an ambitious peace proposal that would require President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to a deputy and start negotiations with his opponents within two weeks.
News reports on Monday, quoting Syria’s state-run news SANA agency, said Damascus, as expected, rejected the plan. SANA quoted an unnamed official as saying Syria considers the plan “a violation of its sovereignty and flagrant interference in its internal affairs,” The Associated Press reported.
The proposal, which appeared to be modeled on the agreement recently signed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, also calls for a government of national unity to be formed within two months, followed by presidential and parliamentary elections.
“We ask that the Syrian regime leave and hand over power,” Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said in Cairo, according to Reuters. “We are with the Syrian people, with their will and with their aspirations.”
In Cairo, representatives of the Syrian National Council, an opposition group, welcomed the proposal on Sunday, but said there would be no negotiations until Mr. Assad stepped down.
With little immediate chance of success, the proposal reflected divisions within the Arab League over how to confront the Syrian crisis, as well as the league’s mounting sense of helplessness as the death toll mounts. Hundreds of people have been killed by security forces since the league sent observers to the country in early December, and armed opponents of the government have demonstrated growing power in recent weeks.