The Arab League observer mission to Syria has been postponed temporarily, the mission head, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa Al-Dabi, stressed in an interview with Egyptian news portal Al Ahram on Sunday.
“A decision by the Arab League to freeze the activities of it mission to Syria is temporary, not final,” Al-Dabi said, adding that the League would reconsider the issue in early February.
On Saturday, the League announced the suspension of its mission, which has been working in Syria since late December 2011, over what it described as a serious worsening of the security situation in Syria.
"It has been decided to immediately stop the work of the Arab League's mission to Syria pending presentation of the issue to the league's council," the League’s secretary general, Nabil el-Arabi, said in a statement. The decision, he added, was taken “after a series of consultations with Arab foreign ministers because of the upsurge of violence whose victims are innocent civilians.”
Besides increasing violence, Al-Dabi said the decision to suspend the mission was due to a number of other factors, including a recent condemnation of the observer mission by Sheikh Adnan al-Arour, a Syrian religious leader who supports the opposition, as threatening Syria’s “integrity and security.” Another reason was what Al-Dabi described as the Syrian opposition’s “categorical rejection of recent Arab League decisions on Syria.”
The Arab League has put forward a plan calling for a national unity government to be created in Syria within two months to implement a peaceful handover of power from embattled President Bashar al-Assad to his deputy.
The decision to suspend the mission came amid reports of dozens of new deaths registered by Syrian rights groups in the past few days.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 190 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria since Tuesday, when the League announced the extension of its mission for another month.
The United Nations has estimated more than 5,400 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the uprising against al-Assad’s rule ten months ago.
The Syrian state-run Sana news agency said on Saturday the country’s government “is surprised and regrets the decision taken by el-Arabi to suspend the observer mission after having decided [last week] to extend it for a month.”
Al-Dabi said in his interview with Al Ahram that the Syrian government had confirmed its commitment to ensuring security of Arab monitors, adding: “It’s 200 percent sure that the observers’ position in Syria does not raise any concerns.”