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Damascus rejects opposition representation in Arab League

The Arab League is biased and its interference in the 23-month Syrian conflict in unacceptable, Damascus says

Ahram Online , Thursday 7 Mar 2013
Arab League
The empty chair of the Syrian delegate is seen during an Arab League meeting in Cairo March 6, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
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The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates issued a statement Wednesday night condemning the decision of the Arab League to recognise the Syrian National Coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian state.  

"The recognition decision violates the Arab League Charter and legitimises the presence of one party to the conflict despite its involvement in bloody acts at the expense of the Syrian victims," the statement said.

The statement accused the Arab League of "political bias" to regional and international players, referring to Qatar and France, which support military action in the two-year Syrian national conflict.

"Hence, the Syrian Arab Republic proclaims rejection of the intervention of the Arab League amid its adoption of a non-neutral approach towards the conflict," the statement noted.

According to AFP, the Arab League said Wednesday it is prepared to hand Syria's seat in the organisation to the opposition battling to oust President Bashar Al-Assad, if it sets up an executive body.

The League, in a resolution adopted at a meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo, called for the opposition National Coalition "to form an executive body to take up Syria's seat" and attend its next summit, in Doha, on 26-27 March.

The umbrella group would retain Syria's seat in the 22-member organisation "until elections leading to the formation of a government to assume the responsibilities of power in Syria," the resolution said.

The Arab League call was based on "the sacrifices of the Syrian people and the exceptional circumstances" in the country. Iraq and Algeria expressed reservations while Lebanon declined to be associated with the resolution, Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi told a news conference.

Lebanon urged foreign ministers to allow the Syrian government to retake its seat at the League, from which it was suspended in late 2011, adding that the organisation had failed to resolve the two-year conflict in Syria.

Last year, with the death toll escalating in the anti-Assad revolt, the League recognised the National Coalition led by Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib as the "legitimate representative and main interlocutor with the Arab League."

Arab states are free to offer military support to rebels fighting the forces of Al-Assad if they wish, a final statement of Arab League ministers said Wednesday. Previously the League had stressed that the Syrian opposition and rebels should be supported by humanitarian and diplomatic means.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict since March 2011, according to the United Nations, which on Wednesday put the number of Syrian refugees at one million.

Last month, Al-Arabi warned against a "huge humanitarian catastrophe," due to the growing number of killed people, during an Arab ministerial meeting in Cairo.

Al-Arabi announced efforts by the regional organisation to reach a "peaceful solution" to the 23-month civil war through pushing regime and opposition representatives to political dialogue.

"The Arab League's aim is to maintain the social fabric and sovereignty of Syria; President Bashar Al-Assad's regime has to positively respond to popular demands for change and democracy," he added.

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