After a meeting in Cairo on Saturday, the Arab League announced that it will suspend Syria from its membership and impose economic and political sanctions on Wednesday, November 16. The League also issued a statement saying that, if the violent crackdown against civilians does not cease, it will recognize the opposition Syrian National Council.
Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad attacked the Saudi Arabian, Turkish and French embassies in Damascus and the Qatari mission in nearby Beirut on Saturday night, with Saudi Arabia and Turkey withdrawing non-essential diplomats and their families. Pro-Assad supporters also attacked the Turkish consulates in Aleppo and Latakia, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea. Windows were broken, stones hurled and Turkish flags and pictures of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, burned in front of the embassies. Turkey is demanding compensation for the damage and says that it is holding Syria responsible for the safety and security of Turkish citizens. Turkey also warned its citizens from traveling across its southern border.
In France, the Syrian ambassador has been summoned to Paris to explain the attacks on French diplomatic missions in Syria.
Two weeks ago, the Arab League thought it had struck a deal with Syria to end the violence. But more than 20 people have been killed each day since then. Over 3,500 people have been killed so far in the uprising that began in mid-March; with so many dying every day, November could turn out to be the bloodiest month yet in Syria.
On Sunday, the Syrian government called for an emergency summit of the Arab League. An unnamed Syrian officials has told Sana, the Syrian state news agency, that the government will make a key concession demanded by the Arab League and allow its monitors to travel to the country to assess conditions prior to November 16. Iraq has offered for the emergency summit to be held in Baghdad.
The Arab League’s vote to suspend Syria was not unanimous as Yemen, Lebanon and Syria voted against the suspension and Iraq abstained, saying that suspending Syria would simply complicate the situation. The Arab League has heretofore been thought to be ineffectual and lacking clout, but its recent moves against Syria have been welcomed by the United Nations and Western Nations, which had been fearful of the regional effects of taking more decisive action against Syria. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, France and the US have all welcomed the suspension as Western powers have struggled to “craft a means of stopping the violence in Syria without causing a collapse in regional stability.”
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Image of Arab League flag by Flad via Wikimedia Commons