Move marks rare intervention by King Abdullah, who brands Syrian actions 'unacceptable'
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah demanded an end to the
bloodshed in Syria on 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.
It was the sharpest criticism the oil giant - an absolute
monarchy that bans political opposition - has directed against any Arab state since a
wave of protests roiled the Middle East and toppled autocrats in Tunisia and
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
Events in Syria had "nothing to do with religion, or
values, or ethics", the king said.
A crackdown by Syria's President Bashar al-Assad against
protests has become one of the most violent episodes in the wave of unrest
sweeping through the Arab world this year.
Assad's government says it is fighting against criminals and
armed extremists who have provoked violence by attacking its troops. Activists
and Western countries say Assad's forces have attacked peaceful protesters.
"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 on 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 Muammar Gaddafi, most of the region's rulers have been
cautious about criticising other Arab leaders during the wave of protests this
The other regional heavyweight, Turkey, whose foreign
minister is due in Damascus on Tuesday, has been voicing its disapproval for
Saudi Arabia had maintained its silence regarding Syria
despite deep antagonism over the contest for regional hegemony with Shi'ite
Iran, one of Syria's only allies and chief patron of Hezbollah, the Shi'ite
militia and political movement to which Saudi Arabia's allies have lost
influence in Lebanon
Shortly after the address, Al Arabiya reported Kuwaiti
parliamentarians called on members of the GCC - a bloc of resource-rich
monarchies in which Saudi influence is extensive - to recall ambassadors from
The channel provided no further details immediately.
King Abdullah sent Saudi troops in March to help
neighbouring monarchy Bahrain put down anti-government protests, and Saudi
officials have criticised the decision to put Egypt's ousted leader Hosni
Mubarak on trial.
Saudi Arabia has acted as a mediator in neighbouring Yemen,
and is hosting its President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who went there for medical
treatment after being wounded in a bomb attack when protests against his rule
turned into open conflict.
Now that is a seismic political shift and laudable position taken by Saudi Arabia, no doubt other GCC states feel the same way and will express it in similar fashion. Hopefully, the Syrian leadership will listen to Arab voices if they do not they are undermining the very fabric of Arab society.
Looking around the membership of the Arab League, it may well be that the next pressure point is a motion of censure on the actions of the Syrian regime from them. This would bolster the message from the UN which would then encourage China and Russia to become more vociferous in their criticism of the incumbent dynasty in Damascus.
We should support the Saudi King and also ask him to allow democracy in his country, where women are not allowed to drive or travel alone. Also he should encourage democracy in Bahrain and remove his forces, then I am sure Syria would listen.