Last Updated: Mon Aug 29, 2011 09:50 am (KSA) 06:50 am (GMT)

Syria rejects Arab League statement as Turkey says it has lost trust in Damascus

Foreign ministers and representatives of foreign ministries of the Arab world attend an Arab league meeting in its headquarters in Cairo. (Photo by REUTERS)
Foreign ministers and representatives of foreign ministries of the Arab world attend an Arab league meeting in its headquarters in Cairo. (Photo by REUTERS)

Syria on Sunday rejected an Arab League statement demanding an end to the bloodshed in the country as the organization’s chief waited for a green light to travel to Damascus and as Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he has lost confidence in Syria.

In a diplomatic note to the organization’s secretariat seen by AFP, Syria said the statement amounted to “a clear violation ... of the principles of the Arab League charter and of the foundations of joint Arab action.”

The Syrian delegation protested that the declaration was issued “despite the meeting having closed with an agreement that no statement would be published or statement made to the press,” according to AFP.

The statement contained “unacceptable and biased language,” the note said, adding Damascus would act as if it had never been published.

The Arab League announced a peace initiative aimed at solving the crisis in Syria, where more than 2,000 people have been killed in anti-regime protests, to be delivered in person by its secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi.

The 22-member organization’s foreign ministers at a meeting on Saturday night called in the statement for an “end to the spilling of blood and for Syria to follow the way of reason before it is too late.”

They expressed their “concern faced with the grave developments on the Syrian scene which have claimed thousands of victims and wounded.”

The foreign ministers also called for respecting “the right of the Syrian people to live in security and of their legitimate aspirations for political and social reforms.”

Arabi said on Sunday that he was awaiting a Syrian invitation to travel to Damascus. “I’m waiting for the response of Syria’s government,” he told journalists in the Egyptian capital, adding he was ready to leave immediately.

Losing confidence

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, meanwhile, said he has lost confidence in Syria.

“In today’s world there is no place for authoritarian rule, one-party governments and closed regimes,” Gul said in an interview with Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency. “These will either be changed by force or by the initiative of those who rule.”

International pressure has been mounting for an end to more than five months of violence. US President Barack Obama earlier this month joined the leaders of the UK, France, and Germany in calling for Assad to step down.

The protests that began in mid-March are part of the wave of unrest across the Middle East and North Africa this year that has unseated the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia and threatened the regime of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya.

Gul said he was receiving detailed daily intelligence reports on the shootings of protesters in neighboring Syria.

“Today how many will it be?” he asked. “We’ve lost our confidence.”

Turkey’s $740 billion economy is the largest among Syria’s neighbors. Relations with Syria have deepened since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002. The two countries have dropped visa requirements and in 2009 started joint military training exercises.

Turkish exports to Syria have increased to more than to $1.8 billion in 2010 from $267 million in 2002.

At least 2,400 people have been killed in Syria since the protests started, according to Syrian activists.

The UN puts the death toll at more than 2,200. More than 500 members of the security forces have died, the government has said.

Foreign conspiracy

Assad has blamed the dissent on a foreign conspiracy, while saying protesters'; demands have merit and that changes are needed.

Syria’s Interior Ministry urged residents of the capital not to respond to calls posted on social media networks to stage protests in Damascus squares “for their own safety” after some of the most intense protests there since the start of the five-month uprising against Assad, according to The Associated Press.

Assad has met the extraordinary revolt against his family’s 40-year dynasty with a brutal security crackdown, but has also acknowledged the need for reform. He has lifted decades-old state of emergency laws and this month endorsed new laws that would allow the formation of political parties alongside the ruling Baath party and enable newly formed political parties to run for parliament and local councils.

On Sunday, he endorsed a new media law that would restrict government censorship of local and foreign publications and end government control over the media, AP reported.

The opposition dismisses those changes, once key demands, as too little too late.

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