Arab FMs in Cairo call for joint peacekeeping force with UN in Syria, back Syrian opposition

Prince Saud al-Faisal says it would be shame to accept what’s going on in Syria

Saudi Arabia’s FM: Half-solutions failed, now we should move to decisive measure

Syrian opposition welcomes Arab foreign ministers’ resolutions

The Arab League has agreed to ask the United Nations to form a peacekeeping mission and an Arab envoy to attempt to end the bloodshed in Syria, according to media reports.

Arab countries will also suspend all diplomatic relations with Syria, reported Aljazeera television.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the Arab League needs to “give all forms of support” to the Syrian opposition and to act accordingly against the government, reported Al-Arabiya.

“How long will we stay as onlookers to what is happening to the brotherly Syrian people, and how much longer will we grant the Syrian regime one period after another so it can commit more massacres against its people?” al-Faisal said, according to the broadcaster.

The Arab League meeting in Cairo on Sunday comes just a week after Russia and China vetoed a resolution in the U.N. Security Council aimed at curbing the violence, which is entering its 11th month.

However, Syria “completely” rejected the Arab League resolution on Sunday, without giving further details, Al-Arabiya reported.

The U.N. estimates that more than 5,400 people have been killed, but activists say that number is far greater.

Over the past week, activists and human rights groups say the Syrian army has continually attacked the flashpoint city of Homs, killing more than 300. The Local Coordination Committees activist network said on Saturday that 30 people were killed across the country, including 12 in Homs.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, asked the Arab League to take decisive measures to resolve the Syrian impasse, relieve the sufferings of the Syrian people and spare their bloods after the previous measures have failed to stop a massacre in Syria, but instead continued to worsen without any glimmer of hope.

In a speech during the resumed extraordinary session of Arab Foreign Ministers on Syrian Crisis held in Cairo this week, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud warned of this tragic result last Ramadan when he sent a message to the Syrian leadership, asking them to deal with these events with wisdom and reason. The King took what was happening in Syria to be far from the true religious teachings and Arab values and ethics.

He asked for curbing the size of the dangerous escalation witnessed in Syria, given the disappointing stance at the UN Security Council, and called for more serious actions against Damascus.

The monarch called upon Arab League to reconsider its initiative in a manner consistent with the aggravating developments, and take immediate and strict measures against the Syrian regime, including enforcement of economic and political sanctions, and to create open channels of communications with the Syrian opposition and to provide them with all forms of support.

Since the beginning of the crisis in 11 March 2011 and until the present time, it was evident that the events in Syria began falling apart tragically and violently. I imagine that the bodies of those killed were as if enquiring why they were sent to fatality and asking the help of every pious Muslim and the chivalry of every Arab person.

On the other hand, the moaning of the injured and the wailing of mothers who lost their dears echoed a day and night decry for what we have done to protect and support them. What did you do to protect and support us? Don't you see that the number of deaths among us reached more than 6,000? Don't you witness that the elders, women and hundreds of children have been affected as well as tens of thousands wounded, some of them with permanent disability? Again, What did you do to protect us after the number of our prisoners exceeded more than 70,000 without being accused or convicted guilty?

What did you do to support us after the number of displaced people reached more than 10,000 seeking safety outside their homeland?

What did you do to support us after entire neighborhoods in Hama and Homs especially in Khalidiya, Baba Amr and others were exterminated and the people were displaced?

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has warned of this tragic result when he sent a massage last Ramadan to the brothers in Syria, asking them to deal with these events with wisdom and reason, considering the events in Syria to be far from the true religious teachings and Arab values and ethics. At the same time, the King pointed out that the situation in Syria has reached a crossroads point. He stressed that what is happening in Syria is unacceptable to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The events are greater than could be justified, stressing that the future of Syria now lies between two options only: to choose the path of wisdom willingly or drift the country into the darks of chaos and loss.

We have found that the Syrian leadership, unfortunately, preferred the second option and decided to continue killing its people and destructing their country in order to maintain power.

What is happening in Syria shows beyond any doubt that it is not ethnic, sectarian or guerrilla war. It is a collective clean-up campaign, harassing the Syrian people and imposing the state control without any considerations of humanity or morals or religion. To maintain security, as claimed by the Syrian regime, is to destruct the entire neighborhoods with heavy weapons and rockets. How could we accept the Syrian regime's notion that what we see by our own eyes is an alleged terrorist war. On the contrary, we imagine that the terrorists are those who use tanks to bomb the cities and people.

Dear Brothers,

Following the historic message of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques warning of the tragic results of the Syrian authorities acts against the innocent people, the subsequent meetings of the Arab Foreign Ministers over the past months, have made unequivocal continuous attempts to resolve the crisis within the Arab framework to convince the Syrian leadership, in various ways and means, to stop killing the Syrian people and to start a comprehensive national dialogue with various parties and opposition forces to conceptualize comprehensive political reform process that restores Syria's security and stability and achieves the legitimate rights for the Syrian people, including the formulation of Arab initiative sparing the bloodshed of the Syrians and maintaining their unity and territorial integrity.

However, all these peaceful efforts were hit by the stubborn rejection of the Syrian leadership that turned a deaf ear to the voice of reason and wisdom. The Syrian leadership decided to go shedding the blood of its people.

It should be noted that the passive action and the failure of some foreign countries to deal positively towards the developments in Syria as well as the failure of the UN Security Council on the question of keeping international peace and security in this crisis, led to shake the confidence of the whole world in the United Nations, as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques put it. This move encouraged the Syrian regime to further indulge in suppression and killing of its people without pity or mercy.

After all, we have the right to wonder how long we remain spectators to what is happening to the Syrian people and until when we continue to give extra time for the Syrian regime to commit further massacres against its people.

Our meeting is promptly demanded to take decisive measures to resolve the Syrian impasse, lift sufferings of the Syrian people and spare their bloods after the previous measures have failed of stopping a massacre in Syria, which, instead, continued worsening without any glimmer of hope.

In this regard, I see that our Council today should not disregard the size of the dangerous escalation witnessed in Syria in light of the disappointing stance of the UN Security Council. Arab League should reconsider its initiative in a manner consistent with the aggravating developments, and take immediate and strict measures against the Syrian regime, including enforcement of economic and political sanctions and to usher open channels of communications with the Syrian opposition including the provision of all forms of support.

We should give priority to responding to the difficult humanitarian conditions of the Syrian people. We have to alleviate their humanitarian sufferings, provide them with needed medicine, food and shelter, and urge all concerned international organizations to carry out their responsibilities and duties in this regard.

We have stressed in various occasions and at forums and we still emphasize our rejection of the military intervention due to any circumstances. We call sincerely to spare Syria the risk of civil conflict or sliding into chaos and destruction, but, at the same time, it is clear to all of us that the lack of commitment of the Syrian government to take serious steps or show productive cooperation to save the people and country, and, instead, opt for continuing the destruction of Syria, will lead to otherwise.

Are we still standing silent in the face of this disastrous event? Are we satisfied that the Syrian regime continues to abuse, kill and torture its people? Is anyone among us still wishes to give another opportunity for the Syrian regime to continue its practices?

If so, it is shame on us as Muslims and Arabs to give in to this matter and accept it. The pure blood being shed every day on the land of Syria cannot go in vain and that the tears shed every day from the eyes of mothers, children and elderly cannot be in vain. Everyone proved involved in these heinous acts must be sanctioned by the international justice and the International Criminal Court.

The Arab League threw its support on Sunday firmly behind the opposition mounting an uprising against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and called for the U.N. Security Council to send peacekeepers to halt bloodshed.

A resolution approved by Arab League ministers meeting in Cairo called for "opening communication channels with the Syrian opposition and providing all forms of political and material support to it." It also urged the Syrian opposition to unite.

The resolution solidifies Assad's ostracism among his Arab neighbors and will add to diplomatic pressure on Russia and China, which vetoed U.N. action on Syria on February 4, to lift their objections and allow the world body to act.

It said violence against civilians in Syria had violated international law and that perpetrators deserved punishment.

It scrapped an Arab League monitoring mission.

The resolution did not make clear whether the proposed joint U.N.-Arab peacekeeping force would involve armed troops, as in previous U.N. missions.

If so, it would be the second time in less than a year the Arab League had called for outside intervention in an Arab state.

Its decision to back a no-fly zone in Libya last March led to Western bombing that helped bring down Muammar Gaddafi.

Syria's uprising, in which the United Nations says more than 5,000 people have died, has become one of the bloodiest of the Arab Spring revolts sweeping the region since the end of 2010.

It has entered a more violent phase in recent weeks with a government crackdown on the restive city of Homs.

Any peacekeeping mission would require a consensus from foreign powers that have been divided on how to resolve a conflict that is descending into a civil war.

Moscow and Beijing drew strong criticism from the West after they prevented the Security Council on February 4 from backing an Arab plan that called for Assad to give up his powers.

Syrian television quoted its ambassador to the League as calling its decision "a flagrant departure from the group's charter and a hostile act that targets Syria's security and stability."

"This decision reflects the state of hysteria and blundering that the governments of some Arab countries are living in, particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia after their latest failure at the U.N. Security Council to get foreign intervention in Syria."

Earlier on Sunday, Tunisia said it would host the first meeting on February 24 of a "Friends of Syria" contact group made up of Arab and other states and backed by the West. A similar Libya contact group played a vital role in coordinating Western and Arab aid to that country's rebels last year.

"The Syrian people deserve freedom as much as their brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other Arab states that witnessed major political change," Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Ben Abdessalem told the ministers.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said: "How long will we stay as onlookers to what is happening to the brotherly Syrian people, and how much longer will we grant the Syrian regime one period after another so it can commit more massacres against its people?"

"At our meeting I call for decisive measures, after the failure of the half-solutions," he said. "The Arab League should...open all channels of communication with the Syrian opposition and give all forms of support to it."

He did not specify if that support should include military aid.

Western powers have shunned military action, despite widespread condemnation of the repression of the uprising.

In the besieged Syrian town of Homs, sporadic rocket and gunfire broke a respite in government bombardments of opposition-held neighborhoods, killing at least four people, according to the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A Syrian Red Crescent aid convoy had reached Homs and volunteers were distributing food, medical supplies, and blankets to thousands of people affected by the violence, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.

"The population, particularly the wounded and sick, is bearing the brunt of the violence," the ICRC chief in Damascus, Marianne Gasser, said. Aid workers were also helping thousands of people had fled to Bludan after fleeing from nearby Zabadani, 50 km northwest of Damascus, the Red Crescent said.

Crowds attended the funerals of some of the 28 people killed in bombings of two military sites in the northern city of Aleppo on Friday - attacks the government cited as proof of its contention that it is fighting foreign-backed terrorists.

Sunday's meeting in Cairo opened with the resignation of the Sudanese general who led an Arab League observer mission to Syria in December, Mohammed al-Dabi. He had been a controversial figure because of his country's own poor human rights record.

Ministers from Gulf states, which have been leading the drive to isolate Assad, met separately earlier and discussed recognizing the opposition Syrian National Council as Syria's government. A Gulf source said they would propose Arab states each take such a step.

In Homs, shelling had eased during Saturday night and Sunday morning before Assad's forces renewed their rocket barrages. At least four people were killed, activists said.

Activist reports are hard to verify independently but form the basis for reporting the conflict as the Syrian government has restricted Western media access to much of the country.

At least 300 people are said to have been killed in the past week in mostly Sunni Muslim opposition areas. Food and medicine are running short, and people have been trapped indoors for days by relentless artillery and sniper fire, residents said.

The Assad family, from the minority Alawite sect, has ruled Syria for the past 42 years. Bashar al-Assad took over after his father Hafez died 11 years ago but hopes that he would prove to be a reformer have been dashed by the events of the past year.

The conflict now threatens to blow open the complex ethnic, religious and political fault lines across the Middle East.

Diplomats at the United Nations say Saudi Arabia, a Sunni power irked by Assad's alliance with its Shiite regional rival Iran, has floated a draft at the General Assembly similar to the one vetoed by Russia and China in the Security Council.

General Assembly resolutions are non-binding but cannot be vetoed. A Saudi foreign ministry official denied on Sunday that Riyadh had formally submitted any such measure.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Saturday that Moscow would not back any "unbalanced" text in the assembly similar to the one it blocked in the Security Council.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged Syrians not to rely on the West or Arab governments in their uprising.

"You know better what they are planning against you. Our people in Syria, don't depend on the Arab League and its corrupt governments supporting it," Zawahri said in a video recording posted on the Internet.

He described Assad as a butcher and urged Muslims in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan to come to the aid of the rebels.

At a funeral in Aleppo for some of the soldiers and civilians killed in Friday's bomb attacks on two military and security facilities, Ahmed Badr al-Din Hassoun, mufti of Syria, appealed to the opposition to end its campaign.

"Enough. Enough. Enough. Why, brothers in the opposition, do you want to burn down your country? Why do you want to shed blood?" he said.

He also urged Assad to stamp out corruption, saying "this way it will not remain a pretext for those who want to destroy this nation."

Syrian state television reported that Assad, who says he is introducing reforms to meet the opposition demands, received a new draft constitution on Sunday.

"When the constitution is recognized Syria will have taken the most important step toward a legal and constitutional framework for transitioning the country to a new era...that will achieve what we all aspire to," Hassoun was quoted as saying.