Syria to Permit Independent Observers; Blogger Freed
Syria has agreed to allow an Arab observer mission into the country after Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad signedthe protocol at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo. According to Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi, the first group of Arab observers will be dispatched to Syria by the middle of the week. ”We wouldn’t have agreed to sign the protocol had our reservations not been taken into consideration, no matter what ultimatum they issue,” said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem. Previously, the Arab League gave Damascus until Wednesday to sign the protocol, saying if Assad’s government failed to do so, it would turn to the UN Security Council to try and end the violence.
According to the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, Syrian authorities released U.S.-born blogger Razan Ghazzawi, who was arrested at the border December 4 while on her way to attend a conference in Jordan. She was charged with fomenting sectarian strife and spreading false information through a secret organization, which would carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Additionally, Iran and Syria signed a five-year free trade agreement, with Iranian lawmaker Allaedin Boroujerdi saying the free trade pact was “a firm response” to the United States and its allies which are “investing billions of dollars to change the political structure of the Syrian government.”
Meanwhile, Chris Zambelis writes that “Having established formal contacts with the SNC, the [Free Syria Army] has steadily gained traction as the official armed wing of the Syrian opposition.” Rania Abouzeid weighs the merits of offering President Assad immunity to hasten his exit from power.