Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Arab states seek U.N. help as Syria steps up violence

DAMASCUS, Syria — The Arab League sought help from the United Nations to address the escalating crisis in Syria on Tuesday, amid Syrian defiance of Arab efforts to broker a peace settlement and an upsurge of violence in which dozens of people died.

Gulf Arab countries pulled out of an Arab League monitoring mission, saying it was ineffectual. The move further cast into doubt the fate of an initiative aimed at ending the Syrian government's use of force to suppress a 10-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad's rule.

Activist groups reported the deaths of at least 38 people, most of them in the flash-point city of Homs, as the government responded to the growing international pressure by stepping up its attempts to crush the revolt.

Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, said Syria felt justified in escalating the use of force against protesters because a report by the Arab observer team acknowledged some of them have taken up arms. He indicated the crackdown would intensify, saying there could be no reforms in Syria until the revolt is suppressed.

On Sunday, the Arab League cited Syria's failure to stop the violence in presenting a transition plan calling for Assad to step aside. On Tuesday, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby and Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon requesting a meeting of the Security Council to address ways it could help implement the plan.

Earlier, the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates — announced the withdrawal of their observers from the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria and urged the Security Council to take "all needed measures" to stop the violence, suggesting they would be willing to countenance military intervention.

U.S. and European efforts to spur Security Council action have been blocked, however, by Russia, which staunchly opposes any U.N. action that could lead to international intervention in Syria.

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