Syria left isolated as neighbours vent fury at attacks
Published 14/11/2011 | 05:00
President Bashir al-Assad of Syria last night demanded and won an emergency meeting of the Arab League in a desperate attempt to reverse its decision to suspend the country from membership and avert the prospect of its backing sanctions at the United Nations.
The Syrian authorities called for the meeting -- to be held in Morocco on Wednesday -- as Mr Assad's neighbours, in some cases former friends, reacted with fury to attacks on their embassies and consulates by mobs of his supporters denouncing the League's decision.
One group of supporters broke into the Saudi embassy in Damascus, smashing windows, while another tore down the flag on the embassy of Qatar. Both were leading voices in the move to suspend Syria.
There were also attacks on Turkish and French consulates and missions in provincial cities, leading to a decision by the Turkish government to send planes to ferry its diplomats and their families home. The loss of the support of Turkey, once seen as a key strategic ally, has been a particular blow to Mr Assad.
"No administration can come out victorious from any struggle against its own people," a fierce statement issued by the Turkish foreign ministry said, while the foreign minister, Ahmet Davetoglu, was preparing to meet leaders of the opposition Syrian National Council.
Prominent opposition figures with contacts inside Syria said that Mr Assad had not been expecting the Arab League to take such decisive action in its meeting on Saturday.
It voted by 18 votes to three with one abstention to suspend Syria from meetings, a particularly bitter blow to a country that regards itself as a cornerstone of Arab nationalism. The only recent parallel was the decision to suspend Libya's membership earlier this year.
Worse was to come afterwards when officials said the League was seeking to unify the Syrian opposition into a coherent force similar to Libya's opposition National Transitional Council.
In another echo of the stance that led to it arguing for the UN's no-fly zone in north Africa, the League's secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi, yesterday used a visit to the Libyan capital Tripoli to say it was "studying mechanisms it could implement to protect civilians in Syria".
"There is nothing wrong with going to the UN Security Council," he added.
Russia and China both vetoed United Nations sanctions last month, but Amr al-Azm, a Syrian-American academic prominent in the opposition movement said it would be different if the resolution were not sponsored directly by the US or European countries. (© Daily Telegraph, London)