The Arab League on Wednesday gave the Syrian regime three days to halt violence against its people and agree to a peaceful roadmap or face economic sanctions, Qatar’s prime minister said.
The three day deadline has started on Wednesday.
The bloc said it is “giving the Syrian government three days to stop the bloody repression” of its civilian population, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told a press conference after an emergency meeting between ministers of the 22-member league, joined by a Turkish delegate, in Rabat.
“But if Damascus does not agree to cooperate with the League, sanctions will be adopted against Syria,” he said, adding that the Arab states had “reached the end of the line” with Damascus.
The Qatari prime minister said that Arab states have ‘reached the end of the line’ with Damascus.
The embattled President Bashar al-Assad failed to co-operate with an Arab League initiative to halt the violence earlier this month, much to the bloc’s concern. Assad had agreed to withdraw military tanks off the streets and order his security forces to cease the crackdown on protesters which has so far claimed the lives of over 3,500 civilians since protests erupted in mid-March.
Earlier on Wednesday, France recalled its ambassador to Syria, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said, after its diplomatic missions there were attacked amid ongoing protests against Assad’s regime.
“There has been renewed violence in Syria, which has led me to close our consular offices in Aleppo and in Latakia, as well as our cultural institutes and to recall our ambassador to Paris,” Juppe told parliament.
Escalating violence in Syria peaked on Wednesday with an attack by Syrian army defectors on an intelligence complex in Damascus. Meanwhile attacks on the Moroccan, Qatari and Emirati embassies in the capital have been reported by an Al Arabiya source.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission estimated a total of 22 civilians had been killed on Wednesday in clashes with Syrian security forces.
In the northern city of Latakia, pro-Assad mobs had attacked France’s honorary consulate and the detached chancery in Aleppo on Saturday, sparking French condemnation and the summoning of Syria’s ambassador to Paris.
The Syrian government on Tuesday pledged there would be no repeat of attacks on embassies after a spate of recent assaults against countries deemed to be against Assad’s beleaguered regime.
“We’re working at the (U.N.) General Assembly with the Arab League to get a draft resolution adopted,” Juppe said, according to AFP.
On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council condemned the recent spate of attacks on diplomatic missions in Syria.
The Jordanian embassy compound was stormed by Assad loyalist protesters on Monday after King Abdullah II became the first Arab leader to say openly that he thought Assad should step down.
But despite Damascus’ pledge that there would not be a repeat of embassy attacks, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday that the Moroccan, Qatari and Emirati embassies in Damascus were attacked by protesters.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri immediately condemned the attack on the Moroccan embassy, after reports that up to 150 protesters had pelted the building with stones and eggs.
“I condemn the violence against the Moroccan embassy in Syria ... and what is happening inside and outside the Arab embassies,” he said in comments to reporters.
An Emirates foreign ministry official confirmed that the UAE embassy in Damascus came under attack on Wednesday as the Gulf state took part in the Arab League meeting.
“The UAE condemns the attack against its embassy in Damascus and the Syrian government bares responsibility for the safety and protection of the chancery and the security of its staff,” said Jumaa al-Junaibi, quoted by the official WAM news agency.
He reminded Syria’s government that international conventions required it to “protect diplomatic missions” on its territory, accusing it of “negligence.”
The circumstances surrounding the attacks on the Qatari embassy in Damascus are still vague.
Other missions targeted by pro-Assad protesters have included those of Saudi Arabia and Turkey; outspoken critics of the Assad regime’s eight-month crackdown on dissent that the United Nations says has cost more then 3,500 lives.
Last month the U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford was withdrawn because of security threats but is supposed to return to Syria within “days to weeks,” Washington has said.
In a statement issued after the Turkish-Arab coooperation forum in Rabat, the delegates declared they were “against all foreign intervention in Syria.”
“The forum declares that it is necessary to stop the bloodshed and to spare Syrian citizens from new acts of violence and killing, and demands that urgent measures are taken to ensure the protection of civilians,” the statement said.
“Ministers also stressed the importance of Syria’s stability and unity and the need to find a resolution to the crisis without any foreign intervention,” it said.
“Everything must be done to stop the ongoing bloodshed in Syria,” the Arab bloc’s secretary general Nabil al-Arabi told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting of the called to discuss the Syrian crisis.
Arabi said he hoped that Arab moves to send observers to Syria would bear fruit within days, although it is still being met with resistance from army deserters.
But he reiterated that no observers would be sent before a clear agreement is signed between the Arab League and Damascus, which has failed to implement an earlier plan on ending the violence.
Playing into the regime’s hands
The United States said Wednesday that the use of violence by the Syrian opposition plays into the Syrian “regime’s hands,” adding it did not condone violent acts by either side.
State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner was reacting to reports that Syrian army defectors had attacked a Syrian military intelligence base on Wednesday in one of the most daring raids in eight months of unrest.
Toner told reporters that it was “not surprising” that the opposition is resorting to violence in response to the deadly crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“We don’t condone it in any way, shape or form but... it’s the brutal tactics of Assad and his regime in dealing with what began as a non-violent movement (that) is now taking Syria down a very dangerous path,” he said.
He squarely put the blame for the violence on the regime in Damascus.
“We don’t condone violence, not on the part of the Syrian military, the Syrian regime, nor on the part of the opposition,” Toner said without going as far as condemning opposition attacks.
“We think that this kind of violence... it really plays into Assad’s and his regime’s hands when this becomes violent,” Toner said.
“This was a peaceful movement in its inception and it’s only because of the regime’s repeated and brutal campaign of violence against innocent protesters that we’re seeing the country move down this very dangerous path.”
Toner appeared to allude to concerns the country could erupt into civil war with the risk of events spilling over into neighboring countries.