Arab League calls on Assad to step down

At emergency meeting in Qatar, ministers agree to provide Syrian president with safe passage, tell rebels to form transitional government

Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League meeting in March in Baghdad, Iraq (photo credit: AP/Karim Kadim)
Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League meeting in March in Baghdad, Iraq (photo credit: AP/Karim Kadim)

Arab League leaders called Sunday on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, guaranteeing him safe passage if he leaves the country.

At an emergency meeting in Doha, Qatar, ministers from the organization’s 22 member states urged the rebel Free Syrian Army to form a transitional national unity government, reported AFP.

Announcing the League’s consensus, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani said, “There is agreement on the need for the rapid resignation of President Bashar Assad.” He urged the embattled Syrian leader to make the “courageous” decision in order to save his country, where fighting has raged for 17 months.

League ministers agreed to earmark $100 million for Syrian refugees, according to bin Jassem Al Thani.

The prime minister, who is also foreign minister of Qatar, expressed regret that Arab and international initiatives for a peaceful transition and an end to the violence in Syria had failed to achieve their objectives, according to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

“We have proposed one Arab initiative after another before turning to the international level to convince our brothers in Syria and the ruling regime to meet the aspirations of the free Syrian people,” he told the ministers.

Addressing the meeting, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby urged swift action on the part of Arab nations to stop the bloodshed.

“We have to realize we are in a new and important phase which requires strong action to face the facts on the ground at a time when [UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi] Annan’s plan did not achieve anything,” he said.

Elaraby also warned against Israel’s involvement in the conflict in Syria, reported KUNA, and he urged the ministers to consider the problem of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

At the same meeting, ministers agreed to support a Palestinian bid for recognition at the UN General Assembly, although a timetable for the move was not set.

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