x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Qatar is arming rebels, Syria says

Syria accuses Qatar of arming and financing rebels fighting to topple the president, Bashar Al Assad.

BEIRUT // Syria yesterday accused Qatar of arming and financing rebels fighting to topple the president, Bashar Al Assad.

Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, has suggested sending Arab troops to halt the bloodshed in Syria, which has killed thousands of civilians and government troops since the revolt against the regime erupted 10 months ago.

But he has not said exactly what their role would be.

Syria's state-run Tishrin newspaper said yesterday the suggestion was consistent with the "negative role" played by Doha since the uprising began. Qatar could "help Syria get out of its crisis … by stopping its financing of armed groups and the trafficking of weapons", the paper said.

Qatar has played a major role in leading Arab League diplomatic action against Syria that resulted in the group imposing sanctions and brokering a peace deal that requires Mr Al Assad to stop the bloodshed, pull troops of the streets, free political prisoners and talk to opposition groups.

The peace deal and the presence of a large League observer mission have failed to stem the bloodshed. The mission's mandate ends today and the observers are due to report on their month-long deployment tomorrow.

Qatar also played a leading role in funding, arming and training Islamist militias in the Libyan revolution and joined the Nato-led air mission against Libyan government forces.

The League's foreign ministers will meet in Cairo on Sunday to consider the Syrian observer mission's report and possibly extend the operation, which has been criticised by opposition leaders and rights groups as ineffective. Hundreds have died despite the mission's presence.

Nabil El Araby, the League's secretary-general, has said Qatar's proposal for a troop deployment to enforce the peace agreement and halt the violence could be discussed at the Cairo meeting.Syria has rejected any deployment of foreign forces on its soil.

The accusations against Qatar came a day after the US said a commander of Iran's elite Quds force recently visited Damascus in a sign Iran was backing the Al Assad regime, including supplying weapons.

zconstantine@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse