Sharply contrasting positions have emerged between the Arab League, the political body representing Arab states, and key Western powers over policy to end the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protestors.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby has presented Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with a 13-point document detailing Arab proposals to end the bloodshed and usher in a new era of reform.
Assad’s crackdown on a near six-month uprising against his family’s 41-year dictatorship has killed some 3,000 people, according to rights groups, and severely tested relations between the Syrian regime and the Arab League, which remained silent on the issue until the past month.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph writes:
“Mr Elaraby was forced to delay his visit, which had initially been scheduled for Wednesday of last week, because of the Assad regime's fury after he held talks with senior figures in the Syrian opposition.
The veteran Egyptian diplomat, who assumed his Arab League position in May, claimed to have made a breakthrough, winning a promise from Assad to open dialogue with the opposition and bring the violence to a close.”
"I focused on the importance of an open national dialogue that encompasses all personalities on the basis of national reconciliation, in which the Arab League plays a main role," he told reporters.
Al-Araby's optimism was sharply at odds with a growing determination to punish Assad in Western capitals.
Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said the moment for reforms had passed. Setting the stage for a potential confrontation with Russia, he demanded that Moscow abandon its opposition to a UN Security Council resolution denouncing the Assad regime.
"We think the regime has lost its legitimacy, that it's too late to implement a program of reform," he said during a visit to Australia. "Now we would adopt in New York the resolution condemning the violence and supporting the dialogue with the opposition. […] It's a scandal not to have a clearer position of the UN on such a terrible crisis."
The US state department has said it is working on a new draft resolution, which could be circulated within the Security Council before the end of the month.
Renewed violence erupted in Syria last weekend, with eight people being shot dead by the security forces in the central Homs province, and four more in the south of the country, opposition activists said.