Sunday 18 March 2018

Arab world turns on Assad after brutal crackdown

Khalid Ali

THE Arab world began to turn its back on Syria's President Bashar al-Assad last night after three of his Arab neighbours withdrew their ambassadors in response to the wave of killings which have blighted the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and offered stinging criticism of the regime's crackdown.

As tanks and troops continued to hammer the eastern city of Deir-el-Zour with shells and machinegun fire, Mr Assad found support for his Baathist regime draining away.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have all withdrawn their envoys since Sunday night, while in a further blow, the prime minister of Turkey, Syria's biggest trading partner, said his country's foreign minister would be arriving in Damascus today to deliver a dressing-down to the Syrian government.

The developments came after an unusually strong rebuke from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia late on Sunday, when he demanded "an end to the killing machine" in Syria.

Top officials in the Syrian regime have been targeted by a number of European and US-sponsored sanctions since the uprising began in mid-March, but until yesterday there had been little in the way of condemnation from any Arab state.

Yesterday's dramatic show of disapproval means Mr Assad now finds himself backed into a diplomatic corner.

Radwan Ziadeh, one of Syria's most prominent political exiles, said: "The symbolic steps from King Abdullah, Bahrain and Kuwait are very important. There is no excuse for the United Nations Security Council to take no action now."

In an attempt to alleviate the pressure yesterday, Damascus said it would remove its defence minister.

Analysts say that Mr Assad wants to use the fasting month of Ramadan to crush the anti-government movement. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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