Foreign Minister calls for sanctions on Syria, support for opposition

February 12, 2012

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal led the Kingdom’s delegation to an extraordinary meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo today. The session was called to discuss the latest developments in the crisis in Syria, particularly in the wake of the veto of the Security Council draft resolution supporting an Arab Peace Plan. During an address to his fellow ministers, Prince Saud called on the Arab League (AL) to take decisive measures to end the impasse and to spare the Syrian people further bloodshed. He warned that a dangerous escalation is taking place and that unless more serious actions are taken against Damascus, the massacres will continue. Therefore, Prince Saud advocated the enforcement of economic and political sanctions against the Syrian regime and the opening of communication and support channels with the Syrian opposition.

The Foreign Minister stated that the death toll in Syria has surpassed 6,000, and tens of thousands more have been wounded, including women, children and the elderly. Furthermore, more than 70,000 people have been imprisoned without due process, while over 10,000 refugees have fled the country. He also recalled particularly brutal episodes, such as when “entire neighborhoods in Hama and Homs, especially in Khalidiya, Bab Amr and others, were exterminated and the people were displaced.”

“The future of Syria now lies between two options only: to choose the path of wisdom willingly or to drift into the darkness of chaos and loss,” Prince Saud declared. “We have found that the Syrian leadership, unfortunately, preferred the second option and decided to continue killing its people and destroying their country in order to maintain power.” He continued, “What is happening in Syria shows beyond any doubt that it is not ethnic, sectarian or guerrilla war. It is a collective clean-up campaign, harassing the Syrian people and imposing state control without any considerations of humanity or morals or religion. To maintain security, as claimed by the Syrian regime, is to destroy entire neighborhoods with heavy weapons and rockets.” The Foreign Minister asked, “How can we accept the Syrian regime’s notion that what we see by our own eyes is an alleged terrorist war? On the contrary, we imagine that the terrorists are those who use tanks to bomb the cities and people.”

Unfortunately, said Prince Saud, the failure of some countries on the U.N. Security Council to put pressure on Damascus has “encouraged the Syrian regime to further indulge in suppression and killing of its people without pity or mercy.” In the absence of U.N. action, he reasoned, the Arab League must “take immediate and strict measures against the Syrian regime, including enforcement of economic and political sanctions and [the opening of] channels of communications with the Syrian opposition, including the provision of all forms of support.”

Prince Saud stressed that the Kingdom is not advocating military intervention and believes that priority should be given to humanitarian support. However, the world must take decisive action to end Syria’s slide into chaos and destruction. Furthermore, he insisted, “Everyone proved involved in these heinous acts must be sanctioned by international justice and the International Criminal Court.”

Prince Saud also welcomed the announcement by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, the current Chairman of the Arab Ministerial Council, that an International Conference of the Friends of Syria will be convened in Tunisia on February 24th.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Arab Foreign Ministers decided to formally end the Arab Monitors Mission in Syria and to call upon the U.N. Security Council to issue a resolution forming a joint Arab-International Peacekeeping Force to verify a Syrian ceasefire. According to the final communiqué, the ministers called for a prompt and comprehensive ceasefire in and around residential districts, including the withdrawal of the military to its barracks and the protection of civilians. They stated their intention to open communication channels with the Syrian opposition and to provide them with all types of political and material support. The statement also said that a donation campaign will be organized for the people of Syria.

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