The Arab League met opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday, a day
after violence in his country claimed 69 more lives in the bloodiest day yet in
the government’s brutal eight-month crackdown. The rising violence prompted
calls for tougher measures against Damascus, with US, UN, Turkish and Saudi
officials chiding the Syrian regime for openly flouting international
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had fostered
close ties with Syria before this year’s unrest, warned Assad that his
government was on a “knife-edge” and demanded an apology for attacks on Turkey’s
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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem
apologized on Monday for the attacks, which also targeted Saudi and French
But Erdogan said Turkey expected more
“Bashar, you are required to punish those who attacked the
Turkish flag,” he declared. “We want the Syrian administration to not only
respect the Turks in Turkey and the Turkish flag, but also to respect their own
people. We especially want this.”
Erdogan has yet to unveil promised
sanctions against Syria, but his country now hosts the main Syrian opposition
and has given refuge to Syrian civilians and defecting soldiers.
now expects the [Syrian] people’s demands to be met,” he said. “We all want the
Syrian administration, which is now on a knife-edge, to turn back from the edge
of the cliff.”
The Arab League, which has voted to suspend Syria’s
membership as of Wednesday, asked opposition groups to draw up their plans for a
transition of power, as a prelude to a wider gathering the Cairobased body has
planned on Syria’s future.
“The Arab League will announce soon a date for
a conference to include many of the Syrian opposition groups to discuss the ways
and time needed to move to a transitional period,” Abdel Basset Sedah of the
opposition Syrian National Council’s executive office told Reuters after meeting
After months of hesitation, the League decided on
Saturday to discipline Syria for pursuing a violent crackdown on dissent instead
of implementing an Arab peace initiative. It has stopped short of calling for
Assad’s departure or proposing any Libya-style foreign military intervention in
On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said
Washington hoped the Arab League would use its next meeting on Wednesday to send
a forceful message to Assad.
“We look for the Arab League tomorrow to
again send a forceful message to Assad that he needs to allow for a democratic
transition to take place and end the violence against his people,” Toner told a
“The drumbeat of international pressure is increasing on
Assad,” he said without elaborating.
Joining the chorus of criticism, UN
Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said during a visit to Bangladesh: “President
Bashar should stop immediately the killing of his own people.”
Nations says more than 3,500 people have been killed since protests against 41
years of Assad family rule began in March.
Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal,
the former chief of the kingdom’s intelligence services, said Assad had made his
position clear by failing to live up to commitments made under an Arab League
initiative to stop the bloodshed and start political
“Inevitably, I think, the lack of response of Mr. Assad to all
the efforts made to end the fighting in Syria means that he’s taken the view of
not accepting these matters,” he told a Washington audience.
of Damascus’s last few foreign friends, hosted talks with the Syrian National
Council and urged it to hold a dialogue with Assad’s government. The opposition
group responded by pressing Moscow to join calls for the Syrian leader to quit,
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.
Russia joined China last
month in blocking a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned
Assad’s crackdown, and has accused the West of discouraging dialogue in Syria.