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Arab League Tells Syria To Reach A Cease-fire Deal Within 15 Days

<p>Cameramen film the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.</p>
Amr Nabil

Cameramen film the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

On Sunday, the Arab League called a meeting to discuss whether to suspend Syria from the organization. When the meeting wrapped, reports the AP, the league — made up of 22 nations — made no mention of a suspension but asked the government of Bashar Assad to talk with his opposition and come to a cease-fire agreement within 15 days.

As Mark reported on Friday, the United Nations now estimates that more than 3,000 Syrians have died in clashes with security forces. The Arab League said if a cease-fire doesn't occur within the allotted time, they will have another emergency meeting.

Reuters reports on reaction to the decision in Syria:

Disappointed protesters began banging on the doors of the Arab League building as Qatar's Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani read out the decision.

"The people demand the suspension of Syria's membership at the Arab League!" the protesters chanted.

Initial reaction from Syria was also negative.

"Syria has reservations on the call by the League for a comprehensive dialogue to take place at its headquarters and says it is capable of running its own affairs and security," Syrian state television said.

Speaking to an "Arab diplomat," the AP reports that Saudi Arabia was pushing to kick Syria out of the league:

However, the diplomat said, a significant bloc of countries was opposed to suspension, including Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon and Yemen, whose leader is also facing a serious uprising. According to Arab League diplomats, Mideast heavyweight Egypt did not indicate which side it is on.

Suspension of an Arab League member is rare. Although the move would probably not have a direct, tangible impact on Syria, it would constitute a major blow to President Bashar Assad's embattled regime by stripping Damascus of its Arab support and further deepening its isolation.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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