Syria signs deal to allow Arab League monitors
Syria agreed to the monitors today in Cairo, just two days before the Arab League was set to push for action against Syria at the United Nations.
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Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad signed the agreement at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Monday, according to both a Reuters witness and an Arab League diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity, reports Haaretz.
The Associated Press writes that Syria likely agreed to Arab League proposal to avoid UN involvement in the country's upheaval, though regime critics argue that it is only a delaying tactic by President Bashar al-Assad while Syrian forces attempt to crush anti-government resistance.
Syria had previously agreed to the plan, which includes withdrawal of its army from Syrian towns and cities, the release of thousands of political prisoners, and opening dialogue with the opposition. But Damascus subsequently balked on terms requiring Syria to open its borders to Arab League monitors, and instead continued to attack protesters. The UN last week estimated that at least 5,000 people have now been killed during the upheaval, which began in March.
As a result of Syrian recalcitrance, Arab League officials implemented sanctions against Syria last month. They were set to meet on Wednesday to discuss a proposal that the UN take action against Syria.
Bloomberg writes that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that Syria agreed to sign the deal after Arab League officials changed the original text of the document as Syria requested. “If our amendments were not included, we wouldn’t have signed,” he said. “The signing of the protocol is the beginning of cooperation with the Arab League and we will welcome the observers.” Mr. Moallem did not discuss the details of the agreements.