Arab League calls on Syrian opposition to work together | News | DW | 02.07.2012
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Arab League calls on Syrian opposition to work together

The head of the Arab League has called on Syria's various opposition groups to unite to form a credible alternative to the Assad regime. Meanwhile, a Syrian general and two colonels are among 85 defectors to Turkey.

The Arab League has called on Syrian opposition groups, who were gathered for talks in Cairo, to band together to form a credible alternative to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Observers say the lack of a united opposition has made it easier for Assad to cling to power and made it more difficult for opposition forces to win effective foreign support.

"It is not acceptable to waste this opportunity in any way. The sacrifices of the Syrian people are bigger than us all and more precious than any differences or individual and party interests," Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby told the approximately 250 Syrian opposition activists who were in attendance.

Nasser al-Qudwa, the deputy to the international peace envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, echoed Elaraby's words.

"This is not a choice, but a necessity if the opposition wants to gain the trust of its people," Qudwa said.

The Cairo talks follow an international conference in Geneva over the weekend in which world powers reaffirmed their support for Kofi Annan's transition plan. The Annan plan calls for the formation of an interim government in Syria in a bid to end more than a year of fighting, which - according to UN estimates - has killed more than 10,000 people.

Syrian army defections

The two-day talks, which are also being attended by Turkey's foreign minister, are being boycotted by the Free Syria Army, which has led the military resistance against government forces.

A general and two colonels were among a group of 85 Syrian army defectors who crossed the border into neighboring Turkey on Monday. At least 13 generals have defected from the Syrian military since the popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

Turkey hosts several refugee camps in its southeastern provinces, providing shelter to some 33,000 people who have fled the escalating violence in Syria.

Human rights abuses

Also on Monday, The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay said that both the Syrian government and rebel forces are continuing to receive weapons from outside the country.

"The ongoing provision of arms to the Syrian government and to its opponents feeds additional violence," she told the United Nations Security Council.

"Any further militarization of the conflict must be avoided at all costs," she said.

The written text of remarks to the Council obtained by the Reuters news agency did not mention where the weapons were coming from, but Russia and Iran are widely know to be among Assad's key allies.

Pillay also said that both sides in the conflict had been responsible for human rights abuses in Syria, and she called on the council to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court.

pfd,slk/ccp (Reuters, AP, AFP)