The Syrian opposition on Tuesday rejected President Bashar al-Assad's address, in which he again blamed the violence in his country on foreign conspiracy, and called for the Arab League to refer the issue to United Nations.
Opposition leader and head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Burhan Ghalioun, said in a press conference in Istanbul that President Assad has killed the Arab initiative by vowing to continue his brutality against the Syrian people.
In his first public speech for over six months, Assad on Tuesday blamed “foreign planning” for the uprising and vowed to strike “terrorists with an iron fist.”
Ghalioun said the Assad regime had driven the Syrian people into division and war through “illusionary reform” promises that no one continues to believe.
“There is incitement to violence, incitement to civil strife, some talks about sectarian divisions which the regime itself has fomented and encouraged,” said Basma Qadmani, a member of the SNC, the largest opposition umbrella group.
“Our concern today is that such a speech is quite indicative of the total dismissal by the regime of the international community,” Qadmani said at a press conference in Istanbul.
“And that is an indication that we are going in the direction of more irresponsible and more criminal behavior by the regime in the coming days and weeks.”
Qadmani also said Assad’s speech indicated that the regime “is breaking up with the Arab League,” which has sent observers to Syria in a bid to try to halt the bloodshed that the UN says has killed over 5,000 people.
“This is a turning point, a rupture with its Arab environment,” she added in remarks in English.
The president’s 100-minute speech, his first public address since June, contained vague promises of reform, but no sweeping concessions that might split an opposition now determined to end more than four decades of domination by the Assad family.
The opposition figure said the Syrian revolution would continue in cooperation between the Syrian people, the National Council, and the Free Army of Syria.
Attack on Arab monitors
On Tuesday, eleven members of a team of Arab monitors were injured when their vehicles were attacked this week by protesters in the Syrian port city of Latakia, but the incident has not disrupted operations, a senior Arab League official said on Tuesday.
“Eleven Arab League monitors among a group visiting Latakia on Monday were wounded when protesters attacked vehicles transporting the team. No side fired shots,” the head of the League operations room in Cairo, Adnan al-Khodheir, told Reuters, adding that injuries were “very light” and no one was admitted to the hospital.
“This incident did not affect the work of the monitors in Syria,” he said.
The Arab League condemned the attack and holds the Syrian government responsible for protecting the mission.
The UAE’s foreign minister accused the Syrian regime on Tuesday of not facilitating the job of Arab League observers, lamenting the latest reported attacks on the envoys.
“The job of the observers is getting more difficult day after day ... We do not see a commitment from the Syrian side that would allow them” to do their job, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan told reporters in Abu Dhabi.
“Sadly, there were attacks on observers, clearly not from the opposition side. This is not a positive indicator,” he added.
The UAE foreign minister added that the Arab League monitors were targeted by “non-opposition” elements and are not allowed to move around freely.
The Syrian foreign ministry, meanwhile, said it is continuing to ensure the security of the Arab observers, in a statement reported by Al Arabiya TV.
Meanwhile, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said the attacks on the Arab observers are raising doubts about the sustainability of the Arab League mission.
“The Arab League observers could not perform their duties as desired. They met many obstacles,” Abdessalem said in translated remarks at a press conference in Ankara.
“The attack in Latakia raised doubts about the sustainibility of the mission,” he added.
“We will go on supporting this mission of the Arab League,” the Tunisian minister said, but added: “It is unacceptable that the bloodshed continues while the mission is still there.”