Arab League asks Britain and France to develop a robust international response for Syria

Meeting of the Arab League in Rabat, November 16, 2011

From Deutsche Welle:  Britain and France have been approached by senior Arab League officials about taking the lead in a Libya-style contact group which would coordinate the next phases of action against President Bashar al-Assad, and plan for what many regard as his inevitable departure from power.

It is widely believed that the approach to Britain and France has considerable support within the Arab League with many states feeling that the Europeans’ proximity to the Middle East and their greater understanding of its complexities would make them better leaders of such a contact group than the United States. King Abdullah of Jordan presented the case to British Prime Minister David Cameron during talks on Tuesday.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe appeared to take France’s first steps toward assuming a leadership position by calling on the UN Security Council to take action against Syria after meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, on Friday.

One senior Arab diplomatic source told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper on Friday that Syria’s neighbors held too many different views to coordinate action effectively and that the West had to take the lead in formulating a robust international response should Syria collapse. "Leaving it all up to us, you are going to get a lot of shenanigans," the source is quoted as saying. "If you need a team captain on this you have got to go to the West."

However such a move would be risky and controversial. "The Arab League would be taking a risk if it tries to involve Britain and France in any contact group, particularly after their high-profile role in initiating regime change in Libya," Dr. Kristian Ulrichsen, a Middle East and North Africa expert at the London School of Economics, told Deutsche Welle.

No desire for military intervention – so far

While talk of a contact group may set nerves jangling in the region, especially as the Libyan version eventually led to NATO military intervention under a UN mandate with Arab political support, there appears to be little desire among Arab or Western states to push for any military involvement – at least at this stage. . . .

Should the Syrian regime escalate its response by using air power against its own people, calls for a Libya-style no-fly zone to protect civilians may reach fever pitch among Arab nations. "And who would enforce a no-fly zone? It would be the UN or NATO," the senior Arab diplomatic source was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.  (photo: Getty)

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