by Rick Moran
Meeting in Cairo, the Arab League is discussing the next steps they can take to try and halt the bloodshed in Syria.
Stymied by China and Russia's veto of their plan at the UN, the League is looking into several alternatives, including setting up a "Friends of Syria" working group of all interested parties, including western countries, as well as the possibility of a joint peacekeeping mission with the UN.
As part of the Arab efforts, Tunisia said it would host the first meeting on February 24 of a "Friends of Syria" contact group made up of Arab and other states and backed by Western powers.
"How long will we stay as onlookers to what is happening to the brotherly Syrian people, and how much longer will we grant the Syrian regime one period after another so it can commit more massacres against its people?" Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal asked ministers at the start of the League session.
"At our meeting today I call for decisive measures, after the failure of the half-solutions," he said. "The Arab League should ... open all channels of communication with the Syrian opposition and give all forms of support to it."
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said he was proposing a new joint Arab-U.N. monitoring team to Syria, replacing an Arab mission beset by problems since it began work in December. The Sudanese general leading the Arab observers quit on Sunday.
It is unlikely that the UN will send troops anywhere where they might be shot at. They would first have to get the permission of the Syrian government - an unlikely prospect to say the least.
An interim step would appear to be to recognize the opposition. But which one? There are two groups that claim they are the legitimate Syrian opposition, so unless there is a merging of the two groups, it is unlikely that any of the Arab states will recognize them.
Nothing was decided. Nothing agreed to. And apparently, nothing can be done by the Arab League at this point.
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