India, Arab League differ on Syria

India and the Arab League on Saturday held extensive discussions on Syria, but have been unable to chart out a common route that would end the crisis in the strife-torn nation.

After a lengthy dialogue between visiting External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Arab League head, Nabil ElAraby, the two sides failed to find convergence on one core issue — the fate of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

The Arab League, citing the Syrian Constitution itself as the basis, says it has called upon Mr. Assad to step down and hand over power to his Vice President and a national unity government. In contrast, India's view is non-prescriptive: It is up to the Syrians themselves to internally decide how they need to resolve their crisis. Foreign intervention of any kind was both unhelpful and unnecessary.

Diplomatic sources clarified that it was not for India to decide whether the Syrian President should stay or not. That was the prerogative of the Syrian people themselves, and any decision taken by them through an internal dialogue would be acceptable to India.

Resolution on Syria

Foreign office spokesman Syed Akbaruddin clarified that the resolution on Syria, which India had supported but China and Russia vetoed at the United Nations Security Council, did not call for the exit of Mr. Assad from the Presidency.

Diplomatic sources said that while the Arab League called for Mr. Assad's exit, there was hardly any consensus within the 22-nation grouping on how that result could be achieved. The call by Qatar, which was endorsed by Saudi Arabia to arm the Syrian opposition, which itself stood divided, had not been endorsed by the rest of the League.

“It was only natural that fault lines within a large grouping like the Arab League on modalities would surface,” Mr. Akbaruddin said.

With the divergences on how to resolve the Syrian crisis remaining unbridged, the Arab League and its components are set to hold a flurry of meetings. Their diplomatic activism includes an upcoming meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), whose core members, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been calling for more muscular approach to end the violence in Syria. The League is preparing for a vigorous engagement with the Russians and the Chinese, who have, citing the principle of sovereignty and apprehending a covert attempt at regime change, rejected external intervention to end bloodshed in Syria. Kofi Annan, the new U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, is set to visit Cairo, next week to hold talks with the Arab League. It is likely that Nasser Al-Qudwa, the veteran Palestinian diplomat maybe appointed as Mr. Annan's deputy on Syria.

During their talks, both sides agreed to step up their economic ties — a decision that would be reflected in the upcoming meeting in Abu Dhabi of the India Arab Investment Projects Conclave.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 4:13:10 PM |

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