The head of the Arab League's monitoring mission in Syria has said inspectors have not yet reached “a definitive conclusion” over the country's 10-month long civil unrest.
Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi met on Thursday with the chairman of the Turkish Felicity Party (SP), Mustafa Kamalak, who was also in Damascus on a fact-finding mission, to discuss events that have taken place during the lead-up to Turkey's call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
“At this point in time we have not reached a definitive conclusion,” al-Dabi told the Turkish politician. The meeting took place at the Cham Palace hotel, where both parties were staying. “We have investigated incidents in five different cities for six days now but we have not come to a definitive conclusion yet,” al-Dabi said, adding: “We were given a month to conclude our investigations. We employed 100 investigators. Once we have conducted our probes into other cities where incidents have taken place, I think we will be able to draw our conclusions.”
Asked by Kamalak how events unfolded suddenly in March, al-Dabi said: “There was a public uprising in Syria. I am sure there are domestic reasons for that,” adding, “In other Arab countries, there were uprisings as well,” without giving out any details on why these events are happening.
The Cairo-based Arab League is to meet in the Egyptian capital on Jan. 8 to discuss the findings of its initial 50 monitors, who arrived in Syria on Dec. 26. The investigation is aimed at ensuring that President Assad follows through on his pledges to withdraw security forces from cities, release political prisoners and permit anti-government demonstrations. The monitors came under severe criticism after the group appointed al-Dabi, who has close ties to an indicted war crimes suspect, to head the monitoring mission. The unrest in Syria, which started in mid-March amid revolts that swept the Arab world, has left more than 5,000 protesters and military defectors dead, according to a UN estimate.
Qatar's prime minister suggested that the assistance of the United Nations is needed to improve the Arab League's program of monitoring. “This is the first time the Arab League has been involved in this kind of operation and mistakes have been made,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, whose nation currently chairs the Arab League, told reporters in New York on Wednesday. “They tried their best but they lack experience. We need the expertise of the UN.” He said it is necessary to “evaluate” when the monitors, who are engaged in a month-long mission, will return and how they will operate.
In the meantime, the Arab League is increasing the number of monitors in Syria, the total of whom will reach around 140 following new arrivals yesterday. The league initially proposed that Assad permit 500 observers to enter the country but the numbers were cut after discussions with Syria on Dec. 19. In exchange, the Arab League agreed to suspend plans to submit a proposal to the UN Security Council endorsing an intervention in Syria.