Syria's return to Arab League not on summit agenda: spokesman

Arab League Foreign Ministers meet in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Syria's return to Arab League not on summit agenda: spokesman

  • The pan-Arab bloc, which is set to hold its annual summit in Tunisia on March 31, froze Syria's membership in November 2011 over a bloody government crackdown on protestors
  • But several of the bloc's other 21 members have recently renewed ties with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad

CAIRO: The Arab League said Sunday it was not planning to discuss reinstating Syria's membership at a summit later this month, more than eight years after suspending it as the country descended into war.
The pan-Arab bloc, which is set to hold its annual summit in Tunisia on March 31, froze Syria's membership in November 2011 over a bloody government crackdown on protestors.
But several of the bloc's other 21 members have recently renewed ties with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and some have called for Syria to be re-admitted to the league.
"The issue of Syria's return to the Arab League has yet to be listed on the agenda and has not been formally proposed," said the League's spokesman Mahmoud Afifi.
He noted that the "Syrian crisis" however still tops the agenda, along with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the situation in Yemen and Libya.
Syria's conflict flared in 2011 with anti-government demonstrations that sparked a brutal regime crackdown.
It has since drawn in regional powers, killing 370,000 people and displacing millions.
But the regime, backed by allies Russia and Iran, has since re-conquered much of the territory it had lost to rebels and terrorists, and now controls some two-thirds of the country.
Syria's Kurds, which declared victory over Daesh on Saturday, control much of the oil-rich northeast, which the regime has hinted it may seize back in a military operation.
Earlier this month, Syrian officials attended a meeting of Arab states in neighbouring Jordan for the first time since the country's Arab League membership was suspended.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in December made the first visit of any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since 2011.
The same month, Egypt hosted Syria's national security chief and top Assad aide Ali Mamluk.
The UAE also reopened its Damascus embassy in a major sign of a diplomatic thaw.
Arab states have also slammed US President Donald Trump's call for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a strategic territory the Jewish state seized from Syria in 1967.


Gargash: UAE not leaving war-torn Yemen despite drawdown

Updated 43 min 8 sec ago
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Gargash: UAE not leaving war-torn Yemen despite drawdown

  • The UAE announced earlier this month it was drawing down and redeploying troops in Yemen
  • UAE minister Gargash said the Houthis should see the UAE move as a confidence-building measure

The United Arab Emirates, part of a Saudi-led military coalition, is not leaving war-torn Yemen despite an ongoing drawdown and redeployment of Emirati forces, a UAE minister has said.

“Just to be clear, the UAE and the rest of the coalition are not leaving Yemen,” minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said in an opinion piece published Monday in The Washington Post.

“While we will operate differently, our military presence will remain. In accordance with international law, we will continue to advise and assist local Yemen forces.”

The UAE announced earlier this month it was drawing down and redeploying troops in Yemen, where a years-long conflict between government forces - backed by the Saudi-led coalition - and Iran-backed Houthi militia has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The UAE is a key partner in the military coalition which intervened in Yemen in 2015 to back the internationally-recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against the Houthi.

Gargash said the Houthis should see the UAE move as a “confidence-building measure to create new momentum to end the conflict”.

“As the United Arab Emirates draws down and redeploys its forces in Yemen, we do so in the same way we began - with eyes wide open,” he said.

“There was no easy victory and there will be no easy peace.

“But now is the time to double down on the political process.”

The warring sides have fought to a stalemate, and several rounds of UN-sponsored talks, the last held in Sweden in December, have failed to implement any deal to end the war.

Since 2015, tens of thousands of people - mostly civilians - have been killed in the conflict described by the United Nations as the world’s worst manmade humanitarian crisis.