BEIRUT

Middle East

Riyadh pulls ambassador from Syria, Amman urges dialogue

JEDDAH, AMMAN: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah demanded an end to the bloodshed in Syria Monday and recalled his country’s ambassador from Damascus, in a rare case of one of the Arab world’s most powerful leaders intervening against another.

Meanwhile, Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh urged Syria to return to dialogue, expressing concern over spiraling bloodshed but stopping short of condemning the Arab neighbor.

Judeh was quoted by Jodan's official Petra News Agency on Monday describing the escalation in violence by President Bashar Assad's regime as "disturbing."

But Judeh noted that Syria's unity, security and stability is a "red line" for Jordan, and stressed that Amman does not interfere in Damascus' internal affairs.

Arab nations have joined a growing chorus of international condemnation over the crackdown by Syrian forces looking to quash a five-month old uprising.

However, It was the sharpest criticism Saudi Arabia has directed against any Arab state since a wave of protests roiled the Middle East and toppled autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Saudi statement came with all the weight of the King’s personal authority, and follows similar statements since Saturday from the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

“What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia,” he said in a written statement read out on Al-Arabiya satellite television.

Events in Syria had “nothing to do with religion, or values, or ethics”, the king said.

A crackdown by Syria’s President Bashar Assad against protests has become one of the most violent episodes in the wave of unrest sweeping through the Arab world this year.

“Syria should think wisely before it’s too late and issue and enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms,” the Saudi king said. “Either it chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss.”

Earlier Sunday, the Arab League, in a rare response to the escalating bloodshed in Syria, called on authorities there to stop acts of violence against civilians.

Although several Arab states have joined the West in opposing Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, most of the region’s rulers have been cautious about criticizing other Arab leaders during the wave of protests this year.

The other regional heavyweight, Turkey, whose foreign minister is due in Damascus Tuesday, has been voicing its disapproval for months.

Saudi Arabia had maintained its silence regarding Syria despite deep antagonism over the contest for regional hegemony with Shiite Iran, one of Syria’s only allies and chief patron of Hezbollah.

 

 

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