KUWAIT CITY: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said on Tuesday the international community has “betrayed” Syrian rebels by failing to arm them against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“The legitimate Syrian resistance has been betrayed by the international community and left easy prey to tyrant forces,” Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz told the Arab summit in Kuwait City.
He was referring to unkept promises by several nations to arm fighters battling to topple the Assad government, which is backed by Russia and Iran.
Saudi Arabia is one of the main backers of the rebellion against Assad that erupted three years ago and has become a full-fledged civil war after loyalists launched a crackdown against protesters seeking democratic reforms.
“Syria has become a (battle) field open to killings and destruction carried out by an iniquitous regime with the participation of foreigners and armed terrorists who come from everywhere,” said the crown prince.
He also called on the Arab League to speed up the handover of Syria’s seat in the 22-member organisation to the opposition National Coalition, in order to give it formal status that could cement its recognition by world powers.
“This must be sorted out… in order to send a strong message to the international community so that it will change its attitude towards Syria,” said the crown prince about the seat.
The seat — vacated after the Arab League suspended Syria’s membership over the conflict — was promised to the opposition at last summit in Doha.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said the opposition must meet certain legal requirements before taking over the seat.
As a result National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba addressed the summit in Kuwait City Monday but was not allowed to speak from the spot reserved for Syria.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in his address to the gathering, accused the Syrian government of lying in “pretending to accept a political solution” but was in fact “buying time”.
Calls for ‘sophisticated’ arms
The summit kicked off with a call by Syria’s opposition for “sophisticated” arms, while Saudi Arabia stressed the need for a change in military balance to “end the impasse”.
UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, however, insisted on the need for a “political solution” to the conflict, urging an “end to the supply of arms to all parties”.
The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Jarba, repeated calls on the international community to supply rebels with “sophisticated weapons”.
Saudi Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Abdulaziz urged support for the rebels, insisting that a solution to the conflict, in which regime forces have recently made significant advances, required a “change in the balance on the ground to end the impasse”.
The conflict in Syria, which in mid-March entered a fourth year, has killed more than 140,000 people and displaced millions.
No military solution: Brahimi
Jarba told the summit that a decision not to hand over Syria’s seat in the Arab League to the opposition sends a wrong message to Assad, telling him to continue “to kill”.
The Syria government’s brutal repression of protests which erupted in March 2011 resulted in its suspension from the Cairo-based Arab League.
Brahimi urged a revival of peace talks.
“I call upon Europe, the United Nations and the United States to take clear steps to reactivate the Geneva talks,” whose last round broke off on February 15 without setting a date for further negotiations.
“There is no military solution,” stressed Brahimi.
He had said on Monday that a further round of talks was “out of the question for the time being”.