x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Arab League offers Assad 'safe exit' if he steps down

Nabil ElAraby, the League's secretary general, gives no further details on his proposal at an Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Doha this morning.

DOHA // The Arab League's secretary general has offered Bashar Al Assad, the Syria president, a "safe exit" for him and his family if he steps down.

Nabil ElAraby gave no further details on his proposal at an Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Doha this morning.

The League also promised US$100 million (Dh367m) for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

Moncef Marzouki, the Tunisian president, also offered Mr Assad asylum in February if it would end the conflict.

Mr Assad has shown little inclination to step down. Yesterday, his forces attacked remaining rebel pockets of resistance in the capital Damascus.

In his first public statements since a rebel bombing killed his defence minister and brother-in-law, Mr Assad told his new army chief of staff to "continue the armed forces' pursuit of terrorists".

Meanwhile, the European Union foreign chief said the escalating bloodshed in Syria was sparking concerns that the conflict may spill over into neighbouring countries.

EU foreign ministers are scheduled to endorse a plan today that would enforce the existing arms embargo by asking the member nations to board ships and aircraft carrying suspicious cargo to the war-torn nation.

The inspections will only take place on the territory or in the territorial waters of EU states.

The EU banned weapons exports to Syria in May, 2011. But until now, the 28-member bloc had the right to decide whether or not to inspect cargos believed to be in breach of the embargo.

Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign police chief, said the embargo is an attempt to prevent weapons from reaching Syria.