Arab League Exploring Possible Joint U.N. Observer Mission To Syria

Violence in Syria continues to rage as security forces killed more than 50 protesters in the city of Hom today. With the death toll for the past six days totaling over 400, Arab League ministers are exploring a new proposal to send a joint U.N-Arab League mission to Syria.

“There is a proposal from the secretary-general of the Arab League to form a joint mission for Syria in coordination with the United Nations, and it will be presented before the planned Arab foreign ministers’ meeting on Sunday in Cairo,” the Arab League’s deputy head, Ahmed Ben Helli, told reporters today.

The upcoming ministerial meeting in Cairo may also issue a statement on China and Russia’s veto of a U.N. Security Council Resolution last Saturday, reports Reuters. The resolution was based on an Arab peace plan that had the support of the rest of the Security Council but China and Russia’s veto brought criticism from both Western and Arab nations.

The ongoing artillery bombardment of Homs, a recently leaked report detailing the failures of an Arab League observer mission, and the Russian and Chinese veto have left the Arab League and the United Nations looking for new strategies to halt the bloodshed.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby announced this week that a new mission would need international backing, better equipment and more observers than the Arab League mission. Yesterday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that Elaraby had proposed a joint mission.

Consultations will be held with the Arab League and Security Council members “before fleshing out the details,” said the U.N. chief. But Western powers offered a lukewarm response to the proposal. Agence France-Presse reports that France said there would have to be “guarantees” for the mission and Germany called it a “very serious” idea but emphasized that conditions would have to be met before such an effort could be launched.

While diplomats discuss what steps to take next, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the Syrian government to stop shelling residential areas of Homs. “Those responsible for such horrific attacks will have to answer for them,” HRW’s Anna Neistat in a statement earlier today.

Rights groups estimate that more than 6,000 people have died since protests began eleven months ago.