Assad Abboud, AFP
Last updated: 7 February, 2012

Gulf states to expel Syrian ambassadors and recall their own

Gulf monarchies joined mounting international pressure on the Syria regime on Tuesday, deciding to expel its envoys and withdraw their own over the “mass slaughter” of civilians.

“State members have decided to withdraw their ambassadors from Syria and ask at the same time for all the ambassadors of the Syrian regime to leave immediately,” the six Gulf Cooperation Council states said in a statement.

The GCC said there was “no point in them staying after the Syrian regime rejected all attempts and aborted all honest Arab efforts to solve this crisis and end the bloodshed.”

The bloc condemned “mass slaughter against the unarmed Syrian people” during the nearly 11-month crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

GCC states “follow with sorrow and anger, the increase in killing and violence in Syria, which has not spared children, old people or women with heinous acts that at best can be described as mass slaughter,” the statement said.

The GCC urged other Arab states to use an Arab League meeting next week to adopt “all decisive measures in response to this dangerous escalation against the Syrian people.”

It regretted that “the lives of innocents were being wasted and heavy losses incurred, not in defending the homeland against a foreign assailant, but to satisfy personal interests in the struggle for power without caring about the dignity of Syrian citizens and their freedom.”

Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had already recalled their ambassadors from Damascus. Oman and the United Arab Emirates had not.

The Gulf states’ announcement came after France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain said on Tuesday that they were following Britain and Belgium in bringing back their envoys for consultations. The United States has closed its Damascus embassy entirely.

The Arab League deployed an observer mission to Syria in December to oversee a plan to end bloodshed that has now lasted almost 11 months but suspended it in late January after the mission’s chief said that the violence had reached a new pitch of intensity.

The 22-nation League has since put forward a plan for Assad to hand his powers to Vice President Faruq al-Shara and a national unity government to oversee the preparation of democratic elections.

Syria roundly rejected the proposals and last week Russia and China used their Security Council vetoes to block UN action.

However, after talks with Assad in Damascus on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow was eager to work towards a solution based on the League’s plan, without specifying which one he meant.

“We confirmed our readiness to act for a rapid solution to the crisis based on the plan put forward by the Arab League,” Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.