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Suspension of Syrian membership in Arab League counterproductive

Sep 15,2019 - Last updated at Sep 15,2019

Some Arab capitals, albeit a minority, are suggesting the “return” of Syria to the Arab fold.

The majority of the Arab countries, however, still resist this proposal because they say that the reasons why Damascus’ membership in the Arab League was suspended in the first place in 2011 are still there and continue to exist.

Damascus’ way of dealing with the protests in early 2011 and later on caused most of the Arab world to rise up against what it described as the heavy handedness of the Syrian government in dealing with the uprising, even before it became militant; accentuated by the thousands of Syrian people thrown in jail, where international human rights organisations attests they have been either tortured or ill-treated. The carnage and violations of human rights in Syria, these Arab capitals say, continue unabated until now.

On closer look though, the suspension of the Syrian membership in the Arab League could be counterproductive and has failed to address the basic human rights violations. Allowing Damascus to be represented in the various Arab fora is neither a good conduct certificate to Damascus, nor a “gift” of sorts to the Syrian government for its profile since 2011.

Whatever grievances the Arab world has with the Syrian regime, it would be much more productive to pursue these grievances and find redress to them if Damascus is fully represented in the Arab league and not when it is pushed out of it. Damascus would be much more prone to listening attentively and conscientiously to the Arab world if it continues to occupy its seat in the Arab League and the other Arab fora.

As long as Damascus is isolated, it will have no reason to listen to the Arab complaints and proposals for ending the conflict in the country in depth.

In retrospect therefore, the arguments for resumption of the Syrian membership in the Arab League are stronger and more persuasive than those offered for its isolation.

In return, Damascus is required to show that it is willing to listen, and listen attentively and constructively, to the Arab world’s complaints against it, and take immediate actions to address them lawfully and justly. Damascus is also required a genuine will to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights. A bigger number of Syrian people are either refugees in foreign countries or internally displaced.

Surely Damascus seeks to address these problems in deeds. The scares of the nine-year armed conflict are on the conscience of all sides, including Damascus and all the militants who joined the armed conflict. The blame is widespread and reaches most of the participants in the conflict. Yet, these concerns would be better addressed if Damascus occupied its seat in the Arab League.

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