UNITED NATIONS - Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci warned here Wednesday that Arab League observers in Syria face challenges from both the Syrian government and the opposition. “Today there is a type of violence, which pits the regular armed government against an opposition, which is also armed,” he said through an interpreter. “The difficulties met by the commission and observers of the Arab League not just difficulties having to do with the Syrian government.” Medelci made the remarks at a press briefing following Algeria’ s assumption of the chairmanship of the diplomatic Group of 77 ( Developing Countries). Protests calling for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad which started in March 2011 have escalated into violence in several Syrian cities.
The Arab League, of which Algeria is a member, has set up a commission for Syria and deployed human rights observers to ascertain the nature of the situation on the ground.
Medelci said the Arab League observers are “courageous” and should be supported by the international community.
“From that standpoint, the feeling is that the government of Syria is in the process of making more of an effort but the Arab League is especially having problems with the armed opposition and is not managing to penetrate neighborhoods that are today belonging to the opposition,” he said.
According to Medelci, the Syrian government is beginning to live up to some of its commitments.
“If we’re trying to see how up to now the government of Syria has been behaving we would note that the government has taken some steps, perhaps not enough, but some steps, in the sense that there has been a withdrawal of heavy weapons from the cities that are having problems now, there has been a release of a few thousand prisoners, but there are many more not yet released, and there has been an opening up of the media although this opening is not complete, it is real,” he noted.
As for the possibility of civil war in Syria, Medelci said he does not believe the situation warrants such a designation at this time, since fighting has been somewhat limited geographically.
“For now, we are not in a state of civil war but I said earlier that if the opposition continues to arm itself then there will be a risk that could place us in a position where there is broader violence and could concern more significant geographical space,” he said.
Medelci said it will likely take a bit more time for the Arab League mission to determine the full truth about what is happening in Syria and for the commission to facilitate a dialogue between the opposing parties.
“We are starting to advance, there is more clarity, we better understand what’s happening, but I think that the commission needs at least another 10 days and when we meet in Cairo on the 20th of January the commission will come to make its second assessment and based on that, at that time, it will probably appear that some initiatives could be taken to improve the mediation process further, which is being conducted by the Arab League now,” he said.