Thursday, 05 January 2012 18:37
"We are leading the Arab League to reaching the position that they have
failed in protecting people in Syria," he said. "But we still want
the Arab League to make the calls and take the initiative, so we are pushing
them to call for a UN Security Council resolution."
Arab League ministers are due to meet in Cairo on Saturday to decide whether
or not to allow the observer mission to continue. Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani,
the Qatari minister who leads the League's Syria steering committee,
acknowledged yesterday that the observer mission had made "mistakes"
but there were growing signs that the monitors would be given a reprieve.
Although the League has threatened to refer Syria to the Security Council if
Mr Assad is shown not to have ended the violence against his own people, it
is far from clear whether it has the collective will to do so.
And while a resolution with Arab backing would make it harder for Russia and
China to continue backing Syria at the UN, there are also doubts whether
Western powers have the appetite to do anything more than impose sanctions
Mr Ghalioun insisted that the opposition only needed limited military
assistance, calling for the creation of a "safe zone" in and
around the restive of Idlib, close to the Turkish border where the rebel
Free Syrian Army has its headquarters.
Although such a haven would require protection from the skies, a mission on
the scale of Libya need not be undertaken, he claimed.
"We don't have to destroy all the Syrian airforce," he said. "You
only need to secure a specific zone and this can be done without damaging
the whole defences of the country.
"We believe that a safe zone will encourage battalions and armies of the
regime to defect and take the side of the revolution. This would topple the
balance of power in the favour of the revolution."
A limited operation on the scale proposed by Mr Ghalioun is likely to rule out
American involvement because US rules of engagement dictate that a no-fly
zone can only be mounted over a territory where potentially hostile air
defences have first been neutralised. Mr Ghalioun's call for a no-fly zone
represents a major policy reversal. In an attempt to unite with domestic
dissident groups, the Syrian National Council, which is dominated by exiles
like Mr Ghalioun, agreed last week to drop calls for non-Arab military
But he changed his mind after protesters on the streets of Syrian cities
denounced the compromise.
Western powers have grown frustrated by divisions within the Syrian
opposition. Belgium's foreign minister, Didier Reynders, held talks with
rival opposition groups yesterday to seek to mend a rift that, he warned,
was "playing into the hands of the Syrian regime."
Despite the frustration, Mr Ghalioun has won widespread praise in Western
capitals after pledging that a post-Assad government would end military ties
with Iran and end Syria's policy of providing arms and financing to Hamas
and Hizbollah, the anti-Israel Islamist groups.