Residents walk past buildings damaged in an airstrike by the Syrian Air Force in Homs. (Reuters)
MAKKAH: SIRAJ WAHAB
The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is set to expel Syria from its congregation in an expression of the pan-Islamic body's opposition to the Assad regime’s failure to end the bloodshed in his country.
The decision is being described as one of the key outcomes of the two-day Islamic solidarity summit beginning here Tuesday.
The recommendation to suspend Syria was taken at a preparatory meeting of senior diplomats of OIC member countries at the Conference Palace in Jeddah yesterday. The highly significant recommendation will now be presented to the OIC foreign ministers at their meeting in Jeddah today. Their decision will be final.
Syria’s expulsion from the OIC will mark President Bashar Assad’s total isolation in the Muslim world. The 22-member Arab League expelled Syria in November last year during its emergency session in Cairo.
The preparatory meeting, chaired by Muhammad bin Ahmed Tayeb, director general of the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s office in Makkah Province, lasted nearly 12 hours. It included Iranian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and its permanent representative to the OIC.
Syrian officials were not invited to the meeting. This led the Iranian envoys to raise objections. “The Syrians are still part of the OIC, and they therefore should have been invited to the preparatory meeting,” one of the diplomats quoted the Iranians as saying. However, there were few backers of this Iranian view.
With Iran continuing to support the tottering Assad regime, it found itself completely isolated. The recommendation to expel Syria found instant favor from an overwhelming majority of OIC countries, including hosts Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
“Iran has refused to see the writing on the wall and continues to support a regime that has lost the moral ground to continue in power,” said an Arab diplomat. “This was a good opportunity for Iran to echo the sentiment of the majority of the Muslim world.”
However, diplomats attending the marathon meeting reiterated that the session was not acrimonious. Indeed, there was a lot of camaraderie among all the member states. Other than its expected stance on Syria, Iran demonstrated willingness to cooperate fully with fellow Muslim states on almost all issues, including Palestine, and repeatedly stated that the OIC should remain the bedrock of Muslim solidarity.
Some nations, notably Kazakhstan, Iraq and Pakistan, suggested that efforts should not be given up to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
There were divergent opinions among the member countries on the issue of the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. One section called for a strong condemnation and rapid reaction, while others including Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Bangladesh, suggested a policy of engagement with Myanmar.
“The Asian nations feel that since the Myanmar government has indicated full cooperation with the Muslim world body, it should be given a chance to come good on its promise of delivering justice and bringing the murderers to book,” said an Asian diplomat.
Mali was not supposed to be on the agenda, but almost all African member states vociferously raised the issue of the unprecedented political crisis in the landlocked West African country. The decision was consequently made to include it in the deliberations.
The meeting recommended that the territorial integrity of the country be respected by all parties and that those who are flying the flag of rebellion against the central government should be stopped and condemned.
At the preparatory meeting, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu’s message was read out by Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Abdullah Alem.
Besides political issues, the meeting discussed cultural and economic issues, interfaith dialogue initiatives and the rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe and other parts of the world. All these issues will find mention in the final communique.