9 Jan 2012

Arab ministers demand end to killings in Syria

8:15 am on 9 January 2012

Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo have demanded that the Syrian government and armed groups halt all violence with immediate effect.

Their call came at the end of a meeting on Sunday to review results of their observer mission to Syria so far.

The mission has been criticised as toothless, as bloodshed continues despite its presence.

More than 20 new deaths were reported in Syria on Sunday. The UN says more than 5000 civilians have been killed since protests against President Bashar al-Assad began 10 months ago.

Qatar has proposed that UN human rights experts to be invited to assist the Arab League mission, in order to judge whether the Syrian authorities are honouring their pledge.

The BBC earlier reported the ministers would also look at how the observers can operate more independently. Currently they are required to be escorted by members of the Syrian security officials.

Critics say Mr Assad is using their presence as a political cover and that attacks continue.

In another development, a Russian naval flotilla led by an aircraft carrier docked in the port of Tartus on Saturday.

The BBC reports the carrier group is due to spend six days in Tartus, where Russia has a naval base dating back to Soviet times.