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Killings in Syria Continue Unabated as Arab League Mission Ends

January 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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MARGARET WARNER: Next tonight, Jordan’s King Abdullah talks about his neighbor in turmoil, Syria.

The Arab League’s peace monitoring mission in Syria officially came to an end today. As it did, Syrian opposition activists charged security forces killed at least 16 more people. In fact, the killing has continued unabated over the period the monitors have been assessing whether President Bashar Assad’s regime had stopped firing on civilians, as promised.

The United Nations estimates the death toll at close to 5,500. One Algerian monitor quit the team, telling Al-Jazeera that the mission was a farce and was simply letting the Syrian regime buy time.

And on “60 Minutes” last Sunday, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad, said Arab troops needed to be deployed to end the bloodshed.

EMIR HAMAD BIN KHALIFA AL-THANI, Qatar: For such a situation, to stop the killing, we have some — some troops should go to stop the killing.

MARGARET WARNER: The unrest also poses risks for Syria’s small neighbor Jordan and its ruler, King Abdullah. He was the first Arab leader to urge President Assad to step down. And on a visit to Washington this week, he and President Obama wrestled with what to do.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourages the current Syrian regime to step aside, so that a more democratic process of transition can take place inside of Syria.

MARGARET WARNER: The Jordanian monarch himself has faced demands for change since the onset of the Arab spring last year. These protesters in Amman last spring were demanding political reform and more economic growth.

King Abdullah met the demands by increasing government subsidies, firing his cabinet and amending the constitution in some respects. At the same time, the king has been trying to deal with the Middle East’s other major challenge, the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

He updated President Obama on talks he hosted this month between negotiators for the two sides.

KING ABDULLAH II, Jordan: Although this is still in the very early stages, we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that we can bring the Israelis and the Palestinians out of the impasse that we’re facing.

MARGARET WARNER: The king has a keen interest in ending that impasse. Half of Jordan’s population of 6.5 million people is Palestinian, and the country is one of only two Arab nations to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

For now, though, the violence in Syria is perhaps the most urgent topic on Jordan’s agenda. The Arab League meets Sunday to decide whether to extend the monitors’ mission for another month, or take stronger action.