Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said on Tuesday that Syria must stop its “killing machine” and pull its army out of cities, in remarks at the end of an Arab League meeting.
“We cannot accept this killing machine. We cannot allow people to be killed this way,” he told a news conference at the end of a regular meeting in Cairo of the pan-Arab body, of which Syria is a member.
“The army must withdraw from inside the cities so that we can start talking about a dialogue between the people and the government,” he said.
Sheikh Hamad, who is also Qatar’s prime minister, said “there are those who cast doubt on some of the intentions” of the Arab League, insisting however, that “everyone supports Syria and its stability.”
Earlier he read a statement at the end of a meeting of the 22-member bloc’s foreign ministers calling for an “immediate” end to the bloodshed in Syria, where the UN says some 2,600 people have been killed since mid-March.
“The current situation in Syria is still very serious and an immediate change has to happen in order to stop the bloodshed and prevent people facing more violence,” said the statement read out by the chair of the meeting, Sheikh Hamad.
“The Syrian leadership must take urgent steps to implement the measures it agreed upon during the visit of the secretary general,” it said referring to a peace bid by Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.
Arabi met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday to discuss a 13-point document outlining Arab proposals to broker an end to the bloodshed, hold elections and push for reforms in the troubled country.
There was no mention of a resolution that rejected U.S. unilateral sanctions against Damascus, which had been circulated in draft form at the meeting.
Afterwards Arabi said there had been an agreement with the embattled Syrian leader “on steps to carry out the reforms, (and) the elements will be submitted to the council of the Arab League.”
On Tuesday, Arabi said Assad had agreed to receive an Arab League delegation to follow-up on the agreement struck at the weekend.
“But the Arab foreign ministers believe that there must be a ceasefire (in Syria) before the departure of the delegation,” he said at a joint news conference with Sheikh Hamad.
The Arab League statement said the situation in Syria “is still very dangerous” and renewed the bloc’s “deep concern over the pursuit of violence and the deaths and injury of large numbers of civilians.”
The League, it said, discussed on Tuesday how it can help Syria resolve the crisis “in such a way to meet the aspirations of the Syrian people, guarantee Syria’s security, stability and territorial integrity and prevent foreign intervention.”
On Monday, activists said Syrian security forces shot dead 23 people, 17 of them in and around the flashpoint central city of Hama.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that, as of Monday, a total of 2,600 people had been killed in the Syrian government’s crackdown.
But senior Assad aide Bouthaina Shaaban said on a visit to Moscow that 1,400 people had died since the demonstrations erupted six months ago –half of them security force personnel and half of them “rebels”.
Damascus has consistently maintained that the protests are the work of armed groups, rejecting the reports of Western embassies and human rights groups that the great majority of those killed have been unarmed civilians.