Arab foreign ministers discussed a draft resolution calling on Syria’s government to hold talks with the opposition and to end the violence in the country as they met at an Arab League summit in Baghdad on Wednesday.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari at the summit said: “It is better that Kofi Annan’s plan on Syria to succeed rather than the conflict become highlighted again at the United Nations Security Council.”
The plan by U.N.-Arab League’s special envoy Kofi Annan stipulates that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pull his troops and heavy weapons from cities before peace talks with his opponents.
A continuing Syrian army offensive is part of the regime’s efforts to overrun rebel strongholds as it tries to crush an unprecedented year-long revolt, which according to the U.N. has claimed the lives of more than 9,000 people.
“We cannot be neutral towards the daily killings in Syria,” Zebari told Arab officials at the summit.
“The Baghdad summit comes as an important step in light of the [recent] changes in the [Arab] region,” he added.
The Arab League suspended Syria last year and has in the past called on Assad to step aside to allow talks. But members are split over how to handle increasing violence that threatens to inflame the region’s complex ethnic and sectarian mix.
‘Saddam Hussein’s palace’
Meanwhile, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that Kuwait’s emir will attend the Arab summit in Iraq, hailing progress in ties and urging Baghdad to fulfill obligations for its 1990 invasion of the emirate.
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah is to attend the summit on Thursday in Baghdad, in the first visit by a Kuwaiti head of state since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of August 1990, Ban said following talks in Kuwait City.
“This conference is being held in the palace of Saddam Hussein, where plans for the invasion of Kuwait were made,” Zebari said in a political reference to Kuwait.
“I urge Iraq to fulfill its longstanding obligations to Kuwait ... especially in regards with the missing people, Kuwaiti property, compensation” and maintenance of border marks between the two nations, Ban said.
The U.N. chief welcomed the “progress in the normalization of relations between Iraq and Kuwait,” adding that the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to Kuwait earlier this month was a positive step.
Earlier, Ban and Sheikh Sabah held talks on the crisis in Syria, relations with Iraq and the Arab summit, the U.N. chief told a press conference in the Kuwaiti capital on his way to also attending the summit.