Arab League Initiative
The spark of the Syrian Revolution was authentically Syrian and based on the Syrian people’s legitimate demands for their rights and dignity to be restored. No one thought it would be an easy process, but hope and inspiration were provided by neighboring revolutions. However, what seem to have sped the process in other countries were regional and international positions towards the respective regimes.
The Syrian opposition, represented by the Syrian National Council (SNC), explored all available options for the protection of civilians, a halt to the regime’s killing, and the fall of the Assad regime. The SNC continues to advocate on behalf of all Syrians for humanitarian protection. The SNC submitted an official request for civilian protection in November 2011 to the Arab League and the United Nations.
The SNC believes that the Assad regime has used the Arab League to gain additional time and political cover to escalate the killing and torture of Syrians. The regime killed approximately 2,500 Syrians during the process of the Arab League negotiations, ultimatums, Arab Action Plan, and the Arab League Syria Initiative. Further delays by the UNSC resulted in additional massacres against the Syrian people. The Syrian people can finish the Revolution and bring down the regime, but will need international assistance, a safe zone, and humanitarian assistance. The SNC will continue to work on multiple tracks to implement the demands of the Syrian people.
What is the Arab League Initiative?
The Arab League began holding meetings to discuss the Syrian crisis in August 2011. Meetings were held on August 7, 26, and 27 calling for violence to end and for the Assad regime to stop its assault on civilians. The Arab League formed an Arab Ministers’ Commission for Syria, charged with handling the Syrian crisis. The Commission appointed a delegation that visited Assad on September 9, 2011 to start talks with him on ending the violence. The Ministers’ Commission held several meetings to discuss strategy and developed an Action Plan to be presented to the Syrian regime. A delegation presented the Action Plan in Damascus on October 26 and held a meeting in Doha on October 30. At that time, Syria signed the Arab Action Plan, which was confirmed at the Arab League’s November 2 meeting.
Oct 30, 2011: The Arab Action Plan was signed in Doha by the Syrian delegation with the following agreement:
I- The Syrian regime agreed to:
- Stop all acts of violence committed by any side in order to protect Syrian citizens.
- Release all detainees arrested from the beginning of the crisis.
- Withdraw all military equipment and artillery from cities and residential neighborhoods.
- Allow Arab League-affiliated organizations as well as Arab and international media outlets full access to move freely in Syria to monitor the situation on the ground.
II- As the Syrian government fulfils the agreed upon items above, the Arab League will initiate talks among Syrian opposition factions in preparation for a national convention to be held within two weeks.
November 3, 2011: The Arab League issued a press release calling upon media outlets to cover events in Syria and that Syria agreed to lift all restrictions on the entry and movement of media professionals.
November 3, 2011: The Arab League held talks with Syrian opposition groups and met with a Syrian National Council (SNC) delegation.
November 12, 2011: Arab League held a special meeting for the Ministers’ Commission charged with the Syrian file to discuss Syria’s complete disregard of the Arab Action Plan agreement. It was decided to suspend Syria’s membership in the Commission and to call upon Arab human rights organizations to begin work on humanitarian protection. The League also threatened to implement economic sanctions on the regime. These were unprecedented decisions for the Arab League.
November 16, 2011: Arab League held a meeting in Morocco confirming Arab League economic sanctions and travel ban on certain individuals charged with violence against civilians. The League decided to send a team of monitors to verify the regime’s compliance with the Arab Action Plan and offered Syria 24 hours to sign the monitors’ protocol.
November 18, 2011: Syria sends amendments to the monitors’ protocol.
November 20, 2011: Arab League meets and rejects Syrian amendments as they void the mission of achieving any of its goals.
November 24, 2011: Arab League issues another ultimatum for Syria to sign the protocol within 24 hours or it will implement economic sanctions.
November 27, 2011: Arab League certifies the list of Syrian individuals with a travel ban as well as economic sanctions for trade and airline travel.
December 1, 2011: Arab League Secretary-General urged Syria to sign the protocol as the killing intensifies.
December 3, 2011: Arab League issues final list of institutions covered in the economic sanctions.
December 7 and 17, 2011: Arab League issues warnings for Syria to comply and stop the killing.
December 19, 2011: Syria signs the Arab League Monitors protocol under political pressure from Russia; allows full access to Arab monitors. The League welcomed this move in its December 20, 2011 meeting.
December 22, 2011: Arab League establishes an operations room for the monitors’ team to receive information and supervise the work of the monitors.
December 24, 2011: First team arrives in Damascus to hold initial talks on monitors’ procedures.
Dec 27, 2011: Arab League Monitors begin work and arrive in Homs.
January 8, 2012: Arab League reviews the first report from the monitors’ team under calls by SNC and 144 Arab NGOs to withdraw the mission amid continued violence, but decided to continue the mission.
January 10, 2012: Monitors’ convoy attacked in Lattakia and Arab League condemns attack and expresses concerns about the safety of the monitors amid continued violence.
January 22, 2012: Arab League Ministers’ Commission held a meeting to review the final report of the Monitors’ Mission and decide to renew the Monitors’ mission. The Arab League produced a new Arab League Initiative for Syria. In short, this calls for a transfer of powers to the Vice President, the formation of a unity government, the extension of the Observers’ mission, and the referral of the Arab Initiative to the UNSC to assist in implementation.
January 22, 2012: The SCN issues an alternative report to the Arab League Observers Mission Report based on information from SNC monitors inside Syria.
January 28, 2012: Arab League announces the suspension of the Arab Monitors Mission due to the escalation of violence.
January 31, 2012: UNSC holds the first hearing on a UNSC resolution presented by Morocco to implement and empower the Arab League Initiative with implementation powers.