Last Updated: Mon Nov 21, 2011 20:28 pm (KSA) 17:28 pm (GMT)

Saudi Arabia steps up pressure on Syria; UK vows to turn heat on Assad

The Arab League has called upon Syrian to allow an investigative team into the country to probe the violence. (Reuters)
The Arab League has called upon Syrian to allow an investigative team into the country to probe the violence. (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia on Monday stepped up pressure on the Syrian government to implement an Arab League plan to end its deadly violence against protesters, while the UK pledged Syrian opposition that world powers will do as much as they can to turn up the heat on President Bashar al-Assad.

Following a Saudi cabinet meeting chaired by Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, a statement urged Damascus to “hold fully to its commitments” in accepting a League plan to end the crisis, and hailed the pan-Arab bloc’s efforts to do so.

The statement, published by the state news agency SPA, underlined “the importance of ensuring the protection of Syrian civilians and stopping the killings and acts of violence.”

On Sunday, the League said Arab foreign ministers are to hold crisis talks on Syria in Cairo on Thursday.

They are to discuss the next steps after the Arab bloc rejected amendments suggested by Damascus to a document outlining plans for a 500-strong delegation to monitor the violence in Syria, an Arab League source said.

Under a November 2 deal with the League, Syria was given 15 days to pull back troops from cities at the centre of anti-government protests, release detainees, allow free movement for observers and media, and negotiate with the opposition.

The League under the deal was to send 500 members of human rights groups, media representatives and military observers to Syria to monitor the situation and help implement the peace plan.

A fresh deadline to end the bloodshed or face sanctions expired on Saturday, with no compliance from Assad’s security forces.

UK Pressure

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague held talks in London with representatives of Syrian opposition groups on Monday, intensifying British contacts with them just days after he appointed a former ambassador to lead London’s coordination with Assad’s opponents.

“I think the Assad regime will find that more and more governments around the world are willing to work with the opposition ... as part of the increasing pressure on this regime,” Hague said after the meeting.

He said international pressure had already been ratcheted up on Syria, pointing to European Union sanctions on Syria’s oil exports. “We are working this week on a further round of sanctions which I hope we can agree next week,” Hague added.

An EU diplomat said that at a meeting in Brussels on Monday, EU states discussed extended sanctions on Syria expected to be agreed ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers on Dec. 1.

He said the sanctions were likely to target more individuals responsible for the violence and entities that support and fund the Syrian government, and to include a range of steps against the financial and banking sectors.

On top of the U.S. and European sanctions, Syria has alienated former ally Turkey and, in a dramatic deepening of its regional isolation, been suspended by the Arab League and threatened with Arab sanctions

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