Source: The Christian Science Monitor
Author: Hamza Hendawi & Lara Jakes, Associated Press
Fewer than half the leaders of the Arab world showed up at an Arab summit in Baghdad on Thursday, a snub to the Iraqi government, but the leaders agreed on an appeal to Syria’s regime to stop its bloody crackdown on opponents.
As the summit opened in a former palace of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the powerful Sunni monarchs of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, other Gulf nations and Jordan and Morocco were absent.
The only ruler from the Gulf to attend was the emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, whose attendance was significant because Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 and occupied it for nearly seven months before a U.S.-led coalition drove his army out. Relations between the two neighbors have been fraught with tension since and even after Saddam’s 2003 ouster. Sheik Al Sabah’s attendance should cap recent improvement in relations.
The one-day summit ended with a call on Syria’s embattled regime to “immediately implement” proposals put forward by joint U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to end the deadly year-long conflict. The summit’s final communique said that the Arab leaders fully support the “legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people to democracy and freedom and their right to determine their future.”
The plan calls for Damascus to immediately stop troop movements and use of heavy weapons in populated areas and to commit to a daily two-hour halt in fighting to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations. It includes a full cease-fire to be supervised by the U.N. so that all parties can discuss a political solution.
In his first comments on Annan’s plan, Assad says Syria will “spare no effort” to ensure the mission’s success, according to the state news agency. Assad said Annan must also get a commitment from armed groups to cease their “terrorist acts” against his government.