Pressure piles on Damascus |
Saudi Gazette - 17 August, 2012
The international community piled the pressure on Damascus Thursday to end 17 months of bloodshed as the top world Muslim body suspended Syria, saying it can no longer accept a regime that “massacres its people.”
The move by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation came after dozens of people, including women and children, were reported killed in a devastating air strike on a rebel bastion in northern Syria.
An extraordinary OIC summit in Makkah said it had agreed to suspend Syria because of “deep concern at the massacres and inhuman acts suffered by the Syrian people”.
“In light of the failure of Syrian regime to implement the initiative of UN-Arab envoy to resolve the crisis and in view of the intransigence of the Syrian regime, the summit decides to suspend the membership of the Syrian Arab Republic in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and all its subsidiary organs,” said a communiqué issued after the conclusion of the two-day summit in Makkah early Thursday.
OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the decision sent “a strong message from the Muslim world to the Syrian regime” of President Bashar Al-Assad.
“This world can no longer accept a regime that massacres its people using planes, tanks and heavy artillery.”
The United States and the opposition Syrian National Council welcomed the move.
“Today’s action underscores the Assad regime’s increasing international isolation and the widespread support for the Syrian people and their struggle for a democratic state that represents their aspirations and respects their human rights,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
The extraordinary summit, called by King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to reinforce Islamic solidarity, expressed deep concern over the developments in Mali and the escalation of acts of terrorism in the Sahel region fueled by the scourge of organized transnational crime gangs.
The summit also affirmed its solidarity and full support for Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir, Iraq, Yemen, Ivory Coast, the Union of Comoros and the Republic of Turkish-Cyprus in addressing the challenges facing these countries.
?It also condemned the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and called for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories.
UN investigators also said Syrian forces had committed crimes against humanity, including the Houla massacre in May that shocked the world, during an escalating conflict that has killed thousands and sent many more fleeing.
Even traditional ally China told Damascus to rapidly implement a ceasefire.?Violence continues to rage in many parts of the country, including the northern battleground of Aleppo, with bitterly divided world powers in deadlock over how to end a conflict that could threaten the entire region.
The Security Council will let the UN military observer mission’s mandate in Syria expire Sunday and will back a new civilian office there to support UN and Arab League efforts to end the country’s 18-month conflict.?France’s UN Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current Security Council president, said Thursday that members agreed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s proposal for a liaison office.
Araud said the council agreed that conditions set for possibly extending the mission of the unarmed observers past Sunday were not met.
Ahead of the UN meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi — whose country has joined Russia in vetoing three UN resolutions on the crisis — urged Damascus to implement a ceasefire and accept international mediation.
“China urges the Syrian government and all concerned parties... to quickly implement a ceasefire to end the violence and start political dialogue,” Yang told visiting Syrian envoy Bouthaina Shaaban.A damning report by the UN Commission of Inquiry issued Wednesday said government forces and their militia allies committed crimes against humanity including murder and torture, while the rebels had also carried out war crimes, but on a lesser scale.
“The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that government forces and the shabiha had committed the crimes against humanity of murder and of torture, war crimes and gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” the report released on Wednesday said.
It said they were responsible for the massacre in the central city of Houla in May when 108 civilians, including 49 children, were killed in a grisly attack that Assad himself had said was the work of “monsters”.
In the north of Syria, activists and residents reported another atrocity by the regime, with dozens killed Wednesday in an air strike in Aazaz, a rebel bastion near Aleppo.
Meanwhile, Gulf Arab states began evacuating their citizens from Lebanon on Thursday after kidnappings linked to Syria’s civil war showed violence has begun to spread across a region torn by sectarian divisions.
A Lebanese clan seized more than 20 people in Beirut and said a Turkish hostage, whose country is a key backer of Syria’s insurgency, would be the first to die if a kinsman held by Syrian rebels were killed.
An earlier threat by the kidnappers to seize Saudis, Turks and Qataris to secure the release of a kinsman held by Syrian rebels in Damascus bore ominous echoes of Lebanon’s own civil war — and Arab governments lost no time in urging visitors to leave Beirut’s popular summer tourist haunts.Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain all told their nationals to leave at once. Some nations have already begun flying their citizens home.