On Tuesday, Arab leaders in Doha opened the annual Arab League summit amid differences on how to proceed on the Syrian crisis.
Almost all participating member states took part in welcoming the presence of Moaz Al-Khatib, a key Syrian opposition figure, who took the seat of Syria in a symbolic move and an announcement of sorts that the Arab organisation is no longer willing to extend the grace period it had been granting to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad since the beginning of demonstrations against his regime two years ago.
However, the basic disagreement remained on how to move forward: Arab Gulf countries are for the most part – but “not entirely” according to one Arab League source – in favour of intensifying the military approach; other Arab countries – “not really excluding Egypt”, according to the same source – are fearful that to topple Assad through military force, which is a questionable matter in and by itself, amounts to paving the way for an extended civil war in a country where diverse ethnic affiliations have an intense influence on politics.
According to the same Arab League source, it is unlikely that the Arab summit would eliminate these differences and it is probable that each country would go about its way with the Syrian file.
Meanwhile, a group of world activists and non-governmental organisations appealed in an open letter to the leaders of the BRICS group of powerhouse developing economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to consider the plight of the Syrian people in their next summit.
Last year, in India, the BRICS leaders acknowledged human rights violations in Syria and called for an immediate end to them. However, nothing has been done on the matter “and the UN estimates that there are some four million people [inside and outside of Syria] who need humanitarian aid.”
The letter addressed to BRICS leaders stated that “the people of Syria are living in a nightmare of death, injury, illegal detention, rape, torture and displacement.”
The BRICS Durban meeting this week, the letter appealed, should take concrete steps towards reaching out to the devastated Syrian people.
The letter specifically called on the Durban BRICS summit to make an appeal to the Syrian president to allow the UN unimpeded and safe access to zones of human tragedy in Syria “so that it can reach civilians from all across Syria’s borders, anytime and anywhere.”
Humanitarian organisations, including those of the UN, have regularly complained about being denied access to the most devastated zones of Syria, where civilians are reported to be suffering enormously due to the military attacks and siege imposed by the Al-Assad regime.
Damascus had been putting restrictions on the access allowed for the UN to enter these areas.
“Enabling the UN full access is the only way to ensure a coordinated, impartial response that can effectively address the escalating humanitarian crisis throughout Syria,” the letter stated.
A call for the end of the humanitarian suffering of Syrian people and rescue of civilians caught in the conflict in Syria as well as refugees is expected to come out with consensus from the Doha summit which concludes its two-day agenda tomorrow.