Saudi Arabia and Kuwait recalled their envoys to Damascus after the Arab League condemned violence in Syria, leaving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad further isolated as he defended his crackdown on “outlaws.”
Hours after the Saudi envoy’s recall, rights activists said yesterday a mother and her two children were shot dead by security forces in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where 42 people were reported killed on Sunday in an army assault.
The recalls by Riyadh, the Arab world’s Sunni Muslim heavyweight, and by fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member Kuwait, mark a major escalation of pressure on Assad.
His regime has reacted with brutal repression to a pro--democracy uprising that has left at least 2,059 people dead, among them nearly 400 members of the security forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Saudi Arabia announces the recall of its ambassador for consultations,” Saudi King Abdullah said in a statement after Syrian security forces killed more than 50 people on Sunday.
“The kingdom does not accept the situation in Syria, because the developments cannot be justified,” Abdullah said, urging “comprehensive and quick reforms.”
“The future of Syria lies between two options: Either Syria chooses willingly to resort to reason, or faces being swept into deep chaos, God forbid,” he said.
“Large numbers of martyrs have fallen, their blood has been shed, and many others have been wounded ... This is not in accord with religion, values and morals,” he said.
The Saudi decision was followed by Kuwait, the second member of the six-nation GCC to recall its ambassador.
“No one can accept the bloodshed in Syria ... The military option must be halted,” Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah told reporters.
“There will be a meeting for the GCC foreign ministers soon and a joint GCC move to discuss the issues related to Syria,” he said.
Assad roundly defended his security forces on Sunday.
“To deal with outlaws who cut off roads, seal towns and terrorise residents is a duty of the state which must defend security and protect the lives of civilians,” state news agency SANA quoted him as saying.
SANA also quoted an official military source as dismissing claims that tanks were shelling Deir Ezzor as “completely false and untrue.”
The Arab League on Sunday made its first official statement on the unrest, calling on Damascus to “immediately” stop the violence.