Gulf states recalling ambassadors in Syria
Riyadh, February 7, 2012
Gulf Arab countries announced on Tuesday they were recalling their ambassadors from Damascus and expelling Syrian envoys in response to worsening violence in Syria.
Syria's rulers had rejected Arab attempts to "solve this crisis and prevent the bloodshed of the Syrian people," a statement from the Gulf Cooperation Council said.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, current head of the council, announces that the GCC states have decided to withdraw all their ambassadors from Syria and also demand that all ambassadors of the Syrian regime in its lands leave immediately," said the six-member council, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
"The council considers that it is necessary for the Arab states... to take every decisive measure faced with this dangerous escalation against the Syrian people. Nearly a year into the crisis, there is no glint of hope in a solution."
The group's foreign ministers are meeting in Riyadh on Saturday to discuss the situation in Syria. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah called on the international community this week to take steps to "protect innocent lives and end the bloodshed" and warned that the violence threatened regional stability.
The world's top oil exporter, one of the leading Arab powers, has long viewed President Bashar al-Assad's government with distrust due to Assad's alliance with Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival Iran.
Saudi Arabia was the first country to withdraw its monitors from an Arab League observer mission to the country last month, followed by the other GCC members.
Meanwhile, Russian news agencies quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that Assad is ready to accept an expanded Arab League mission and schedule a constitutional referendum.
After talks in Damascus, Lavrov also said Assad had assured him he was "completely committed" to seeking an end to violence by all sides, 11 months into a revolt against his rule, and was ready to seek dialogue with all political groups.
"The president of Syria assured us he was completely committed to the task of stopping violence regardless of where it may come from," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying after what he called "very useful meetings with the leadership" of Syria.
Opposition activists have dismissed similar pledges made by Assad in the past because he continued trying to eliminate unrest with tanks and troops and branded his adversaries "terrorists" and "armed gangs".
Russia, one of Syria's last remaining allies, and China on Saturday vetoed an Western- and Arab-drafted resolution in the UN Security Council that supported an Arab League call for Assad to step down.
Moscow said the draft would have put too little pressure on armed opponents of the government, which Moscow says must share responsibility for nearly a year of bloodshed that has killed thousands of people. - Reuters
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