Qatar renews call for Arab force in Syria

January 13, 2013 - 3:01:13 am

CAIRO: Qatar has made a fresh call for an Arab force to end bloodshed in Syria if current diplomatic efforts by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi fail, according to Al Jazeera television.

Brahimi is trying to build on an agreement reached in Geneva on June 30 calling for a transitional period in Syria. But differences between Russia and the United States over the future of President Bashar Al Assad continue to block a deal to end 21 months of violence that has killed more than 60,000 Syrians.

“Arabs must think seriously about sending forces to ensure security in Syria if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the crisis,” Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, said in remarks broadcast by Al Jazeera.

“From the beginning we all agree that a military solution is undesirable. Neither the Arab League nor the Arab Ministerial Committee on Syria, which I chair, favours this option, and all the parties agree with us. But this does not mean that there are other tools to be used to stop the fighting in Syria,” the Prime Minister said.

“It is not a question of intervention in Syria in favour of one party against the other, but rather a force to preserve security,” the Prime Minister, who heads an Arab League committee on Syria, said.  “In my opinion, Arabs must seriously consider this (solution) if other means fail. Arabs are capable of ending the bloodshed,” he said.

Qatar, a supporter of rebels seeking to overthrow Assad, made a similar proposal in September. In a speech to the UN General Assembly, the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said Arab states should intervene in Syria given the UN Security Council’s failure to stop the civil war.

Russia yesterday voiced support for Brahimi’s efforts but insisted Assad’s exit cannot be a precondition for a deal to end the country’s conflict.

 Brahimi indicated the issue of Assad, whom the US, European powers and Gulf-led Arab states insist must step down to end the war, was a sticking point at a meeting on Friday with envoys from Russia and the United States .

“We support this effort,” said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem, refering to Brahimi’s peace initiative. “But until when? We cannot wait forever on this issue.”

Diplomacy, he said, “may continue for two or three or four weeks, but no more because there is a tragic situation in Syria. We cannot justify that we are now talking of solutions.”

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem blasted Assad’s statement that the fighting was not over power. “If the conflict is not over power, why does he not hand over power to the Syrian people,” the Premier asked.

The Premier stressed that any solution that includes the Assad regime will not end the bloodbath. “We support the opposition and the Syrian people in their quest for liberation from this regime,” he said, pointing to the death and destruction that have ravaged the country for nearly two years.