Syria rejected on Tuesday a call by the Gulf state of Qatar to send Arab troops to the restive country, saying such calls would only worsen the situation, undermine the Arab peace efforts and open doors for foreign interference, the Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Syria rejects the statements of officials of Qatar on sending Arab troops to worsen the crisis... and paves the way for foreign intervention,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Syrian people are proud of their dignity and sovereignty and refuse all sorts of foreign interference in their affairs,” according to the statement.
Syria also said would not object to extending an Arab League mission to monitor its compliance with a peace plan, but will not accept an expansion in the scope of its mandate, an Arab source announced on Tuesday.
“The outcome of the contacts that have taken place over the past week between the Arab League and Syria have affirmed that Syria will not reject the renewal of the Arab monitoring mission for another month... if the Arab foreign ministers call for this at the coming meeting,” the source said.
The mission’s mandate expires on Thursday, and Arab League foreign ministers are set to discuss its future when they meet on Jan. 22.
In an interview with CBS “60 Minutes” aired at the weekend, Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said he favored sending Arab troops to Syria to “stop the killing,” which has claimed more than 5,000 lives since March.
Iraq’s foreign minister said that Arab foreign ministers will discuss at a meeting on Sunday the Qatari suggestion to send Arab troops into Syria.
“It’ll be on the agenda – there have been some suggestions,” Hoshyr Zebari said in Abu Dhabi at a press conference with his Emirati counterpart.
Qatar and the UAE last year took part in a NATO-led military campaign in Libya that ended Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s 42-year rule.
Qatar, which once had close relations with Damascus, has been a harsh critic of the 10-month crackdown by President Bashar Assad’s regime. The wealthy and influential Gulf state withdrew its ambassador to Syria in the summer to protest the killings.
Arab League observers began work in Syria on Dec. 27 to verify whether the government is abiding by its agreement to end the military crackdown on dissent.
But far from bringing a halt to the violence, the mission has coincided with an apparent increase in killings.
Opposition and army defectors, meanwhile, have increasingly been taking up arms to fight back.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby has warned that Syria may be sliding into civil war. Elaraby said Assad’s regime was either not complying or only partially complying with an Arab League peace plan.