Tanks around the Baba Amro neighbourhood in Homs, 12 February 2012. (Reuters)
The Arab League has formally abolished its observer mission in Syria and has moved on to another stage. In a meeting in Cairo on Sunday it decided to ask the ´´UN Security Council to issue a decision on the formation of a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force to oversee the implementation of a ceasefire."
Also Arab League diplomats "will open channels of communication with the Syrian opposition and offer full political and financial support, urging (the opposition) to unify its ranks," said a League statement obtained by AFP. Of the League member states only Algeria and Lebanon expressed reservations about the resolution.
By getting rid of the observer mission the Arab League also definitively bid farewell to its ability to act as a mediator. For a peacekeeping force to be installed, the cooperation of the Syrian government is indispensable. But as could be expected Syria immediately rejected the League´s decision. "The Syrian Arab Republic categorically rejects the decisions of the Arab League," which "reflects the hysteria of these governments" after failing to get foreign intervention at the UN Security Council, said Yusef Ahmed, Syria´s representative with the League.
Opposition campaigners meanwhile said that the Syrian army continued its shelling of Homs. The tank fire was concentrated on two large Sunni Muslim neighborhoods that have been at the forefront of opposition to Assad. They said 23 people were killed on Sunday, prompting street demonstrations across the country in support of Homs. A lull in the bombardment earlier in the day prompted anti-Assad rallies in Qusour, Bayada and Khalidua and Bab Houd districts of Homs. Demonstrations also broke out in Houla in the nearby countryside, which has also been under bombardment.