Arab League parliament urges Syria suspension

Body calls for freezing of Syria and Yemen’s membership of league until the two nations end violence against protesters.

Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protesters has killed 2,700 people since March, according to the UN [EPA]

An Arab parliamentary body has called for the suspension of the membership of Syria and Yemen in the Arab League in a bid to put pressure on the two countries to heed popular demands for reforms.

The call was put out on Tuesday following a committee meeting of the Arab Parliament, a body to which members of the Arab League send representatives.

The head of the committee, which met at the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo, said that “mass slaughter” was taking place in Syria and Yemen and called on the league to deal with the countries in a similar way to how it dealt with Libya.

After a crackdown by the government of Muammar Gaddafi on pro-democracy protesters, the Arab League suspended Libya’s Arab League membership in February.

“We call on the Arab states to freeze the membership of Damascus in the Arab League and urge the Arab leaders to take more active stands in that regard if the Syrian leadership did not … stop violence and withdraw its security forces and army … and form a national unity government from all political powers,” said Tawfik Abdallah of the Arab Parliamentarians Political Affairs and National Security Committee.

“We call on the Yemeni leadership to respond to the Yemeni people and accept the Gulf states initiative … or we call on the Arab League to suspend the membership of Yemen in the Arab League and all its organisations.”

The parliamentary committee was careful to specify that it was not calling for foreign intervention, such as the NATO imposed no-fly zone on Libya that was initially supported by the Arab League.

The recommendations of the committee of parliamentarians are not binding, but the forceful steps called for by the body would represent a significant strengthening of the Arab League’s approach to Syria and Yemen if adopted.

League’s position

An Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on September 13 called for “immediate change” in Syria and an end to a crackdown on protesters demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby has said that a decision to suspend Syria’s membership of the league has to be taken by the Arab states, not by the league’s administration.

El-Araby, who visited Syria earlier this month, said he had discussed sending an Arab League fact-finding mission to Damascus at a meeting with Assad.

He said Assad was “responsive” but the league would only be prepared to send a delegation once the crackdown stopped.

In regards to Yemen, Arab League officials have said on different occasions that they have not taken any decisions on the crisis as it has already been handled by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).

The GCC offered a deal that calls for President Ali Abullah Saleh to step down within a set time frame and for the ruling party and the opposition to come together in a national unity government.

In exchange, Saleh would receive immunity from prosecution.

‘Increase pressure’

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday discussed the need to “increase pressure” on Assad.

The two leaders “talked about the need to increase pressure on the Assad regime, in order to lead to an outcome that is responsive to the aspirations of the Syrian people,” a White House official said.

In the latest reports of bloodshed, activists said at least people were killed in Syria on Tuesday.

Four civilians were killed in the central city of Homs, including a woman and an 11-year-old boy who died when their bus was fired on, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Another two were reported killed during searches carried out in the Damascus region.

Elsewhere, a policeman was shot dead by unknown attackers in the northwestern Jabal al-Zawiyah region, the Observatory said.

The state news agency said troops defused a bomb planted under a crude oil pipeline near Homs.

The latest figures released by the United Nations human rights office on Monday indicated that Syrian security forces have killed 2,700 protesters since the start of a the uprising in March, including at least 100 children.

Meanwhile, at least 68 Yemenis have been killed in violence between supporters and opponents of Saleh since Sunday. About 400 protesters have been killed since protests began in the country in January.

Source: News Agencies