Arab League only way to Syria transition

2011-12-07 21:56

Paris - Algeria's foreign minister said on Wednesday an Arab initiative to resolve the Syrian crisis must be given "maximum chance" to broker a change of power through dialogue and avert civil war.

"Syria is a major concern for the Arab countries," Mourad Medelci told French lawmakers. "Today it finds itself in a pre-civil war situation."

Medelci held talks with France, Algeria's former colonial ruler, about developments in the Arab world and the fight against al-Qaeda in Africa's Sahel region .

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria have stalled, with President Bashar al-Assad rejecting a peace plan offered in early November by the 22-state Arab League.

That plan calls for government forces to be withdrawn to barracks and Arab observers to be allowed into Syria.

"We are in a situation where we are putting pressure on the Syrian government on the one hand and, on the other hand, talking to the opposition to create the conditions for dialogue," Medelci said.

French officials said Medelci appeared positive that a deal between Damascus and the Arab League would be reached. The officials said Paris remained sceptical, but backed all moves that could break the deadlock.

Algeria is part of an Arab League ministerial committee on Syria that also includes Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.

Algeria nervous

"Outside of this dialogue this transition will not happen. We must give the maximum chance to this Arab initiative," Medelci said.

He said observers were needed to ascertain exactly what was happening on the ground, as information coming out of Syria was not always clear.

France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, has already said the Syrian National Council, which is based in Paris, is the legitimate partner with which France wants to work and has called for humanitarian corridors to be set up for civilian aid.

Medelci said everything had to be done to avoid turning the conflict in Syria into an international one, as had occurred in Libya, where Nato forces contributed to the eventual overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

Last month, Algeria abstained from a resolution in the UN General Assembly's human rights committee that condemned Syria for its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Arab League diplomats say Algeria, tightly controlled by a military-backed government, is more sympathetic to Assad than other nations in the group, and nervous about the message that any intervention in Syria would send to its own population.