Arab League rejects UN call to stop arming Syrian rebels

‘Since the government receives weapons, the opposition receives weapons. I don’t think that’s a hurdle,’ says Nabil Elaraby

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Arab nations Monday to stop supplying arms to either side in the Syrian conflict but the Arab League chief said it’s impossible to halt the flow of weapons at this time.

Ban made his appeal during a meeting Monday morning with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby and Qatar’s Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Qatar has led appeals to provide rebel fighters more heavy weapons in attempts to turn the tide in the more than 2-year-old civil war that according to the U.N. has killed more than 70,000 people.

Elaraby was asked about Ban’s appeal to stem the supply of arms to the government and opposition after a second meeting Monday afternoon with Ban, this time with Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria.

“If there is a political settlement or the beginning of a political settlement it could happen,” Elaraby said, “but at this point I don’t think it’s possible because the government is getting arms from certain parties, so if the other side gets some arms from certain parties, I think you can get some form of a balance there.”

Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been a major arms supplier to Syria, reportedly along with Iran and Hezbollah.

Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions in the Security Council that would have pressured the Syrian leader to stop the violence. With Moscow demanding equal condemnation of the opposition, the U.N.’s most powerful body has remained paralyzed.

Brahimi told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council on Friday that he is still promoting a peace plan that would establish a transitional governing body vested with full executive powers, and end with elections. But Damascus has shown no appetite for any agreement that would require Assad to step aside.

Elaraby said he, Brahimi and Ban “went through the difficulties” in Syria during Monday’s meeting.

“There’s something that has to be done, but no specific ideas came out,” he said.

Nesirky said the three men discussed ways to help the Syrian parties start a political process leading to an end to violence and a political transition.

The secretary-general reiterated his resolve to do all in his powers to help end the tragedy in Syria and again called on the Security Council to unite and put its weight behind a political solution and Brahimi’s efforts to achieve one, Nesirky said.

Brahimi on Friday denied rumors he was resigning, capping more than a week of widespread reports in the Arab world that he was quitting in frustration, or dumping his affiliation with the Arab League, which has officially recognized the Syrian opposition forces as the legitimate government.

Elaraby told reporters that Brahimi’s resignation was not discussed on Monday.

“We are happy with him,” he said, adding that he made this view clear to Ban.

“We all support a joint mission between the two organizations because they seek one single objective … to have peace, security, stability, democracy and liberty in Syria,” the Arab League chief said.

Elaraby denied that recent Arab League decisions are hindering Brahimi’s work.

“Since the government receives weapons, the opposition receives weapons. I don’t think that’s a hurdle,” he said. “The government is not controlling the country, it is a reality. Some 40 percent of the country is not under the government’s control.”

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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