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Arab foreign ministers turn a blind eye to Syria

Despite appeals by the Arab civil society to put the Syrian uprising on the table for discussion, Arab foreign ministers chose to ignore the regime's bloody crackdown against peaceful protesters in their meeting on Sunday

Dina Ezzat , Monday 16 May 2011
Arab League
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"None of the countries, including Syria, had proposed the discussion of the situation in Syria so we did not discuss it but this does not mean that we are unaware of what is going on there," said Youssef Ben Alawi, the Yemen’s foreign minister.

Speaking in his capacity as the current chair of the Arab foreign ministers council, following a meeting that convened at the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League on Sunday evening, Ben Alawi added that "it must be clear to all – in all Arab countries – that the blood that is being shed cannot be restored and that the confidence that is being destroyed cannot be maintained."

All Arabs, said Ben Alawi, are "hopeful to see the Syrians coming to an agreement amongst themselves in any way possible; we really hope that our brothers in Syria make reason prevail so that they can deny their enemies from abusing the current situation in the country."

That was as much as the Arab foreign ministers would say on Syria, despite two open letters to Foreign Minister Nabil El-Arabi and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa calling for solidarity with the Syrian people who are protesting against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

On Sunday, a group of Arab intellectuals and civil society organisations said they appealed to the Arab League and Egyptian Foreign Ministry to act to stop the continued bloodshed in Syria.

"Egypt must show solidarity with the Syrian cause, by endorsing the Syrian people's quest for freedom and democracy," read the letter sent to the foreign minister. It added that "we must remember that this is the same legitimate impulse as our demands that echoed from Tahrir Square."

"Since the 15th March 2011, over 800 peaceful demonstrators have been killed and 9,000 arrested in 16 Syrian cities. The lack of running water and electricity in towns such as Daraa and Homs has left innocent civilians, including many women and children, without essential basic services," read the letter addressed to Moussa. It added that the "humanitarian situation is worsening day by day.  As the suffering increases, the communications blackout imposed since 22nd April continues to prevent the Syrian people from calling for help."

Both letters demand that a condemnation be issued of the excessive use of force against civilians and that their protection and right to exercise the freedom of expression be demanded.

The letters also demand the instigation of a fact finding mission to look into accounts of the widespread bloodshed among innocent civilian demonstrators.

In the press conference following the foreign ministers’ meeting, Moussa acknowledged that the Arab countries have declined to demonstrate sufficient support to the demands for freedoms and democracy of the Arab people – despite propositions made by the secretariat.

Moussa, however, said that it would be inevitable in the future for everyone to acknowledge the demand for reforms made by the youth of the Arab world.

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