Arab and Turkish officials slammed talk of a military strike against Iran, saying Sunday it would be a disaster for the region and calling for renewed negotiations, while also urging the international community to keep pressure on Syria to end the bloodshed there.
In the wake of suggestions that military strikes are an increasing possibility if sanctions fail to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, Qatar’s minister for international cooperation told a gathering of the world's top security and defense officials that Arab nations rejected the idea.
“Knowing the region very well, I think this is not a solution,” Khaled al-Attiyah said at the Munich Security Conference.
He also dismissed the idea of tightening sanctions further, saying that negotiations with Iran were needed “to get out of this dilemma.”
So far, the West is relying primarily on the threat of economic sanctions to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. Washington and its allies fear Iran could use its uranium enrichment labs - which make nuclear fuel - to eventually produce weapons-grade material. Tehran insists it only seeks reactors for energy and medical research.
Ahmet Davutoglu, the foreign minister of Turkey – Iran’s neighbor to the north - said the international community was discussing three approaches toward Tehran at the moment: negotiations, sanctions or military action.
“From our perspective the worst is the military option, the best is negotiations,” he said, adding that further sanctions could hinder negotiations.
“The military option will create a disaster in our region,” he added.
The two spoke in a panel discussion on “the new Middle East” where much of the focus was on the international outrage over a devastating bombardment of the Syrian city of Homs by President Bashar Assad's forces.
Russia and China on Saturday vetoed a U.N. resolution based on an Arab League proposal that was aimed at ending the bloodshed.
In the wake of the vote, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali urged others to follow his country’s example and expel Syria’s ambassadors as a sign to protesters there that Assad has no international legitimacy.
“The war that Bashar Assad is leading is a war against humanity,” he said. “And this requires a very strong response by the international community.”
He added: “The very least that we can do is to cut our relations to the Syrian regime.”
Ahead of the vote on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the conference that Russia thought the resolution made too few demands of the groups opposing the Syrian regime.
He also said Russia believed the Security Council should “not engage in domestic affairs of member states.”
But Jebali asked pointedly on Sunday: “If a regime is killing its people, are we allowed to talk about sovereignty as a reason or a justification? Is sovereignty a justification for a regime to do whatever it will?”
Egypt’s foreign minister, Mohammed Amr, signaled frustration that the U.N. resolution was vetoed following “one of the few instances when the Arab League really came forward and put forward a full plan for a settlement.”
“Now this human tragedy has to stop,” Amr said, adding that Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Cairo next Saturday.
“We will evaluate the situation after what happened in the Security Council and hopefully ... we will be successful to achieve a peaceful solution,” Amr said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, whose country is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council, said it was possible that the matter would be again taken to the U.N body, in close coordination with the Arab League.
Davutoglu accused Russia and China of reverting to Cold War stances, saying that they “did not vote based on the existing realities, but more reflexive attitude against (the) West.”
“The veto power should not be used from this perspective,” Davutoglu said. In vetoing a “very soft resolution - which type of message are we giving to the Syrian people or in the region?” he asked.
Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, one of the winners of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said of Russia and China that “those two countries bear the moral and human responsibility for these massacres.”
“I urge you in the name of the peaceful rebels to expel Syrian ambassadors from your countries and I urge you to call back your ambassadors in Damascus,” Karman said to conference delegates.
“That is the minimum you can do to punish this regime, and I also urge you to take the necessary measures to protect the Syrian people.”