Arab League asks for Hamas help with Syria; France says mission ‘unable to do job’
The Arab League chief on Friday asked the Damascus-based leader of the Palestinian group Hamas to ask Syria to work to halt violence, saying there was more to do under a peace agreement aimed at ending a crackdown on anti-government protesters as Syrian activists said that as many as 35 protesters have been killed by the fire of Syrian security forces across the country.
France, meanwhile, said that the Arab League mission sent to monitor unrest in Syria was unable to do its job properly as some European countries were acting to expel Syria from two UNESCO human rights committees within a campaign to remove the Assad regime from the global posts.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby was speaking alongside Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal after a meeting in Cairo.
“I gave him a message today to the Syrian authorities that it is necessary to work with integrity, transparency and credibility to halt the violence that is happening in Syria,” al-Araby said, according to Reuters.
The Arab League has sent monitors to Syria to check on the government’s compliance with a promise to end 10 months of violence against pro-democracy protesters.
Al-Araby said there was still work to be done according to the agreement between the League and Syria to scale back its military presence in cities and free thousands of prisoners detained since the uprising began last March.
“The observers are striving to realize this situation: to realize a halt to the violence; to realize the release of the detained, to realize the withdrawal of the (military) vehicles. Therefore there is work,” he said.
He also said the Arab monitors were in Syria now “to undertake a mission that is bigger than that which was asked of them,” but without giving further details.
Al-Araby said Meshaal had played a role in convincing the Syrian government to sign the Arab League protocol.
“Since the start of the crisis, we in Hamas and myself personally, have made a huge effort to solve the crisis through a political solution, and we have kept up these efforts,” Meshaal said.
Damascus is the main Hamas headquarters outside of the Gaza Strip, which it has governed since seizing control there in 2007.
Together with Iran, Syria has been one of Hamas’ main regional allies. However, the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule has strained ties between the two.
Angering Syria, Hamas has refused to hold rallies in Palestinian refugee camps in support of the Assad government.
However, the group still officially maintains its headquarters in the Syrian capital.
France criticizes Arab mission
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Friday that the Arab League mission sent to monitor unrest in Syria is unable to do its job properly.
“We support the Arab League which has sent observers to Syria but this mission is not at present able to do its job properly,” Juppe said on the second day of a visit to Tunisia, according to AFP.
He condemned the “savage and brutal repression” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime against demonstrations which has left more than 5,000 people dead.
He also expressed regret that Russian opposition had prevented further action against Damascus by the United Nations.
Acting to expel Syria from UNESCO committees
Meanwhile, U.N. Watch applauded the UK for announcing Friday that it will act with other countries to expel Syria from two UNESCO human rights committees, as the government disclosed in an email sent Friday to the Geneva-based human rights group, which heads a campaign of 60 MPs and rights activists to remove the Assad regime from the global posts.
On Nov. 11, UNESCO’s 58-nation executive board, which includes the UK, U.S., France, Britain, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Denmark, ratified the Arab group’s nomination of Syria to two committees dealing with human rights.
However, in an email sent Friday to U.N. Watch responding to its December joint appeal, a representative of the Foreign Office stated that the UK “deplores the continuing membership of Syria on this committee and does not believe that Syria’s presence is conducive to the work of the body or UNESCO’s reputation.”
“We have therefore joined with other countries in putting forward an item for the first meeting of the Executive Board at which we will seek to explicitly address Syria’s membership of the body,” he said.
The UK also expressed hope that other members of the executive board will join London in ending what it called “this abhorrent [and] anomalous situation.”
“We congratulate the UK and its allies for doing the right thing,” said U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
“It’s shocking that only two months ago the U.N.’s leading agency on science, culture and education gave two position of global influence on human rights to a regime that is raping, torturing and killing its own men, women and children.” said Neuer.
“This was an unconscionable decision that must be reversed immediately, and we hope that all 58 countries on the UNESCO board will join the UK in doing do.”