Expressing frustration that Syria had not carried out the plan, six weeks after it was first agreed, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said the window for an Arab solution to the crisis was closing.
“If this matter is not solved in the weeks ahead, or couple of months, it will no longer be in Arab control,” he told journalists after an Arab ministerial committee meeting in Qatar. “That is what we told the Syrians from the beginning”.
Arab ministers would vote on Wednesday on whether to ask the Security Council to approve the initiative.
“I believe that Dec. 21 will be decisive, and we hope that the brothers in Syria will sign (the deal) before this date,” Sheikh Hamad said.
Syria has conditionally approved a plan to send monitors to oversee implementation of the Nov. 2 Arab League initiative, which calls on Assad to withdraw the army from urban areas, release political prisoners and hold talks with opponents.
But Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said Damascus was objecting to the League’s call for protection of Syrian civilians, saying members of the security forces were also being killed in the turmoil.
The United Nations says Assad’s crackdown on the protests, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world this year, has killed more than 5,000 people. Authorities blame armed gangs for the violence and say 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed.
The Arab League suspended Syria and declared economic sanctions against Damascus over its failure to implement the initiative, joining the United States, European Union and neighbouring Turkey who have also imposed sanctions. Long-time Syrian ally and arms supplier Russia took a step closer to the Western position on Thursday when it presented a surprise draft resolution at the United Nations which stepped up its criticism of the bloodshed in Syria.
Sheikh Hamad said that, in response to Moscow’s move, the Arab League would meet on Wednesday to decide whether “to ask the Security Council to adopt the Arab initiative and Arab resolutions instead of resolutions from other states”.
“We are not talking about military action but we will ask the Security Council to adopt the Arab initiative,” Sheikh Hamad said, adding Syria should take heed of events in the Arab world where three leaders have been overthrown this year.