Syria has been suspended from the Arab League over its failure to end the bloodshed caused by brutal government crackdowns on pro-democracy protests in a move that will increase the international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad.
At an emergency session of its 22 member states in Cairo to discuss the crisis, the league decided to exclude Syria until it implements the terms of an earlier agreed peace deal to stop the violence.
The league also agreed to impose economic and political sanctions on Syria over its failure to stop the violence and appealed to its member states to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus, the Qatari Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr bin Muhammad Al Thani, said.
“Syria is a dear country for all of us and it pains us to make this decision,” he said. “We hope there will be a brave move from Syria to stop the violence and begin a real dialogue toward real reform.”
However, he said the vote did not signal military intervention as happened in Libya, adding that “no one is talking about a no-fly zone”.
“We were criticised for taking a long time but this was out of our concern for Syria,” he said. “We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions.
“We are calling all Syrian opposition parties to a meeting at the Arab League headquarters to agree a unified vision for the transitional period.”
He also called on the Syrian army to stop its involvement in the killing of civilians.
He said 18 countries had backed the decision while Lebanon, Yemen and Syria voted against and Iraq abstained.