First Published: 2018-02-22

Gulf states urge Syria to end Ghouta violence
Feuding Gulf neighbours stress need for Damascus to stop deadly assault on rebel-held enclave to allow in humanitarian aid.
Middle East Online

Gulf states, mainly Saudi Arabia, have been key backers of Syrian opposition groups

RIYADH - Gulf states on Thursday urged an end to the deadly assault on Syria's rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, as rival Saudi Arabia and Qatar joined ranks in calling for an immediate truce.

Regional titan Riyadh, which leads a four-state Arab bloc boycotting Qatar over accusations of ties to both Sunni Islamists and Shiite Iran, demanded the regime of Bashar al-Assad end the violence that has left more than 300 people dead and sparked international outrage.

The statement however stopped short of outright condemnation, appealing instead to Damascus to adhere to UN Security Council resolution 2254, which calls for a nationwide ceasefire and a political transition.

"We stress the need for the Syrian regime to stop the violence, to allow in humanitarian aid, and to take seriously the path of a political solution to the crisis," the Saudi foreign ministry said on Twitter.

"We are concerned over the continuation of Syrian regime attacks on Eastern Ghouta and the impact on civilians there."

The UAE, a military ally of Saudi Arabia that is also boycotting Qatar, expressed concern at the escalation of violence and called for an "immediate truce" to halt the bloodshed and protect civilians. It also called for allowing humanitarian and medical aid to civilians.

Rival Qatar, however, slammed the assault as an outright "massacre".

"The State of Qatar expresses its strong... condemnation of the massacres and intensive aerial bombardments carried out by the forces of the Syrian regime," read a statement released by Qatar's foreign ministry.

Gulf states, mainly Saudi Arabia, have been key backers of Syrian opposition groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad and Riyadh has hosted meetings of the opposition.

In recent months Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have softened calls for ousting Assad, instead urging a political settlement to the seven-year conflict.

Syrian jets have been raining bombs on the eastern suburbs of Damascus in recent days, killing hundreds and prompting a diplomatic outcry.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres described the death and devastation that has engulfed Eastern Ghouta since Sunday as "hell on earth", and joined France in calling for an immediate humanitarian truce.

The UN Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire to allow deliveries of aid and medical evacuations.

Syria's complex, multi-sided seven-year war has claimed more than 340,000 lives, forced millions to flee their homes and left entire cities in ruins.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE Bahrain and Egypt in June announced they had suspended diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, banning all flights to and from the emirate and ordering Qataris to return home.

They accuse Doha of having close ties to Iran and bankrolling Islamist extremists.


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