Arab League backs Annan Syria plan

Arab League backs Annan Syria plan

Arab League foreign ministers meeting in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have reached a draft resolution on Syria, which calls for action on a UN-backed peace plan formulated by former UN chief Kofi Annan, Al Jazeera reported.

Speaking at the summit on Wednesday, Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, said "the Syrian crisis is not exclusively an Arab one, it affects the entire international community".

Speaking after the first day of the meeting, Zebari said the Syrian crisis figured high on the envoys' agenda.

He called for a "unified vision" when it came to resolving regional issues.

On Tuesday, Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, said President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to the six-point peace proposal that urges an end to violence in that country.

Annan's proposal calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centres, humanitarian assistance, the release of prisoners and free movement and access for journalists. It also calls for a temporary ceasefire to be established every day in order to allow medical and humanitarian aid to be delivered.

Arab states have backed away from their initial proposal, which demanded that Assad step down, after Russia and China vetoed two UN draft resolutions condemning him.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Baghdad, said: "We heard the Iraqi foreign minister saying talks were positive, there was consensus and that Arab foreign ministers reached draft resolution on Syria."

"It basically endorses the peace plan presented by Kofi Annan," she said.

"But clearly there are divisions," she added.

"We heard opening statements, we heard Libyan foreign minister saying there should be more international pressure. And the Iraqi foreign minister said the way forward should be to find political solution," Khodr said.

"No ultimatum, no threats of force and no calls on the Syrian President to step aside."

'No foreign intervention'

Before the summit began, the Iraqi foreign minister said the League would not accept foreign intervention in Syria.

The Annan proposal is the latest attempt to broker an end to more than a year of violence in Syria, after Assad sent troops into cities to try to crush opposition fighters and protesters seeking to end his 12-year rule.

Iran has also backed the Annan peace plan, its foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Damascus responded by saying that it would reject any initiatives made at the summit relating to Syria, according to the Lebanese TV channel al-Manar.

The Arab League suspended Syria last year, but members are split over how to handle increasing violence that threatens to inflame the region's complex ethnic and sectarian mix.

The summit marked the first time Iraq has hosted an Arab League summit since Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Iraq hopes its hosting of the summit shows it has emerged from years of turmoil and bloody chaos following the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation.

"Baghdad government is really attaching a great importance to this summit because they want to return to the Arab fold," Al Jazeera's Khodr said.

"They believe that this is a recognition of the new Iraq. This is going to be the first time that a Shia leader is going to be hosting an Arab summit. And Baghdad has been trying to mend relations with Sunni Arab states."

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