The statement issued by the council of Arab foreign ministers did not mention the possibility of freezing Syria’s membership in the Arab League; what was said about this issue was in the form of statements attributed to sources in the organization. Some of those sources told al-Hayat that Arab foreign ministers have a tendency to threaten Syria with freezing its membership in case the regime does not solve the crisis peacefully and establish dialogue with the opposition. That is why some interpreted the ministers’ avoidance of mentioning the freezing explicitly as an indication that there is no clear law that gives the Arab League this right.
Yesterday I asked former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and he said, “There is one precedent we can count on [which was] when the Arab League suspended Libya’s right to attend the League’s meetings and take part in the activities of its organizations. This procedure was based on the reforms the Arab League witnessed in the past five years.” Moussa was referring to this procedure as a historic step especially as the league cited “the Libyan government’s mistreatment of its people, ” as a reason. That is why Libya’s case serves as a precedent and can be built upon and developed, especially as the Arab League has to play a role in the events taking place in the Arab world.
Moussa added that the penal system in the Arab League is incomplete and needs to be developed through activating “an Arab Security and Peace Council.”
Amr Moussa hoped that Syria would respond to the Arab League since this would be the best exit for the regime to avoid further complications and foreign intervention. But the Syrian opposition rejected the statement since it was based on dialogue with a regime Syrians want to oust. They also said the statement made it seem like the regime will stay.
There is no doubt that the absence of a decision to freeze Syria’s membership weakened the Arab League’s position and made it lose the chance of playing a role in the current events and of obstructing the possibility of foreign intervention and, therefore, avoiding the Libyan and Iraqi scenarios.
Freezing Syria’s membership in the Arab League will bestow legitimacy on the Syrian National Council and will encourage other Arab countries to recognize it and to minimize the dangers of foreign intervention.
The writer is an acclaimed columnist, the Deputy General Manager of Al Arabiya, and Editor in Chief of Alarabiya.Net. This article was first published in al-Hayat on Oct. 17, 2011 and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.