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Russia, China seek coordination with Arab League after Syria veto – AL deputy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Deputy Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Bin Helli informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Arab League has been in communication with both Russia and China following their veto of the UN Security Council draft resolution backing the Arab League initiative on Syria.

Bin Helli revealed that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in constant contact with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, and that he was in contact with Elaraby both prior to his recent visit to Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and following this meeting. Bin Helli stressed that Lavrov kept the Arab League Secretary-General in the picture with regards to his talks with al-Assad, whilst Elaraby will also keep Lavrov informed regarding the outcome of the meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers that is scheduled to take place on Sunday.

Bin Helli told Asharq Al-Awsat that “I also received a message from the Chinese Ambassador clarifying Beijing’s position with regards to resolving the Syrian crisis.” He revealed that Beijing had confirmed the necessity of coordination taking place between China and the Arab states to reach an agreement. This comes after both Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution calling for an end to violence in Syria and backing the Arab League initiative in this regard.

As for whether there are opportunities for dialogue and talks to take place to resolve the Syrian crisis, Arab League Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed Bin Helli stressed that dialogue is imperative to stop the violence that is taking place in Syria today and in order to achieve the demands of the Syrian people.

He said “we are gambling on the achievement of reform and change which serves the interests of the Syrian people.”

He added “there are ongoing Arab efforts in this regard, and everybody is committed to this, because we do not want to see things moving in any other direction.”

Asked about whether Arab states intend to officially recognize the Syrian opposition during the forthcoming meeting of Arab foreign ministers, Bin Helli said “so far, the Arab League is committed to communicating and working with the [Syrian] opposition in order to reach genuine dialogue between the opposition and the Syrian government, in order to allow them to reach a solution to the crisis.”

As for the possibility of Syria following the Yemeni model, where former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh eventually signed an agreement relinquishing his authority and securing the peaceful transfer of power, Bin Helli stressed that the situation in Syria is different than that in Yemen, and that any solution must be a “Syrian – Syrian” one.

As for whether Arab States could exert political pressure on the al-Assad regime to push it to reach such a “Syrian – Syrian” solution, the Arab League deputy chief said “I cannot comment on this…the Arab League Secretary-General will reveal all the latest developments and communications during the ministerial meeting….whilst the president of the committee on Syria will put forward the latest development about the future of the Arab initiative, particularly following the UN Security Council meeting” adding “any decisions will be based on this.”

Bin Helli stressed that it has become clear to everybody that the security solution is not an option, and that all Arab states are concerned by and working to halt the violence that is taking place in Syria.

As for the Turkish statements regarding an initiative being put forward in coordination between Ankara and the Arab States, particularly following the Russian and Chinese veto of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria, Bin Helli revealed that “we have yet to see any Turkish initiative.” He added “the Arab League Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with the Turkish ambassador, and we stress that the Arab League support…any efforts to assist the Arab states.”

Asked about the Gulf States decision to expel Syria’s ambassadors to their countries and whether this will make it easier or more difficult to reach a solution, Bin Helli stressed that this was an old decision taken during the Arab League meeting of foreign ministers in December. He stressed that the Arab League will work to build consensus amongst the Arab states regarding a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis at the next Arab League meeting, scheduled to take place next week.

Bin Helli refused to comment on whether the Arab states intend to increase pressure on the al-Assad regime, but stressed that any country has the sovereignty to withdraw its ambassadors from another country.

On the fate of the Arab League’s observer mission to Syria, Bin Helli said that the mission is on leave until the Arab League Council can agree on its assignments and tasks. He also revealed that the observer mission’s personnel will not change, however the nature of its work may change to ensure that it is more effective.