x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Syrian monitors hindered by attacks, UAE foreign minister says

Sheikh Abdullah says violence directed at observers is not coming from opposition.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Foreign Minister, addresses the media at the UAE Foreign Ministry Office in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Foreign Minister, addresses the media at the UAE Foreign Ministry Office in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // Arab League monitors' role in Syria is becoming more difficult each day as they face limits on their movement, the UAE foreign minister has said.

Even though Sheikh Abdullah did not clarify whether the UAE's monitors would be withdrawn from Syria or whether more would be sent, he said the observers in general have been hit by three violent attacks, including one on Monday.

"There were some attacks against members of Arab League monitors. I don't want to point accusations at anyone, but the attacks were caused by [a party] other than the opposition," he said during a news conference in the capital with the Japanese foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba. "I think those signs are not positive and I will leave this issue for the chairman of the Arab League."

When asked about whether the Arab League monitors had failed in their Syria mission, he said: "There is no doubt that the mission of the monitors is becoming more difficult by day for various reasons, because we don't see a drop in the killing operation, we don't see a commitment from the Syrian side to allow the monitors free movement."

The two foreign ministers discussed regional unrest and issues related to specific troubled countries over lunch, such as Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iran.

Commenting on a question addressed to his Japanese counterpart on Iranian talks about blocking the Strait of Hormuz, Sheikh Abdullah said freedom of sea navigation in international waters was a "pressing issue".

"It is not in the benefit of GCC or Iran or the international community or the stability of energy prices to block any strait, especially the Strait of Hormuz," he said. "We heard varying statements from Iran... about attempts to close the strait."

Mr Gemba added that Iran should not threaten the safety of Hormuz and should be careful with its movements.

"The situation in Iran worries Japan strongly, especially under the revolutions lately. And currently we are carrying out additional procedures for the sanctions [against Iran] and we are thinking of making the responses more effective," he said.

hdajani@thenational.ae