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As Crackdown Continues, Syria Agrees To Arab League Observers

A boy stands in a water fountain as he holds up the Syrian national flag during a rally in Damascus, Syria.
Muzaffar Salman
A boy stands in a water fountain as he holds up the Syrian national flag during a rally in Damascus, Syria.

Today, Syria signed an agreement that would allow Arab League observers into the country. It's all in a bid to end its isolation and the nine-month standoff between the government of President Bashar Assad and protesters who are demanding his ouster.

The Guardianreports:

"The regime's final acceptance of the deal comes after mounting international pressure to end a bloody crackdown on protest that the UN says has killed at least 5,000 and shows signs of descending into civil war.

"Syria appears to prefer to give Arab nations a chance to end the crisis instead of inviting wider international involvement.

"Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, said: 'The signing of the protocol is the beginning of co-operation between us and the Arab League, and we will welcome the Arab League observers.'"

Now, it's important to remember that Syria has signed these kinds of agreements before to no end. The United States, reports the AFP, very quickly expressed doubt about Syria's commitment.

"A signature on a piece of paper from a regime like this, that has broken promise after promise after promise, means relatively little to us," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, according to AFP. "We're not prepared to welcome anything but concrete steps that improve the lives of the Syrian people and end the violence."

And as the agreement was signed, violence again raged in Syria. The BBC reports that 60 to 70 military defectors "were gunned down in the north-western Idlib province." The opposition said 30 others had been killed in the clashes on Monday.

Separately, the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the crackdown. Russia and China, reports Reuters, abstained from the vote.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.