OIC suspends Syria’s membership, will take Rohingya case to UN

Updated 27 August 2012

OIC suspends Syria’s membership, will take Rohingya case to UN

MAKKAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria’s membership early on Thursday at a summit of Muslim leaders in Makkah, citing President Bashar Assad’s violent suppression of the Syrian revolt.
In a closing statement, the OIC also decided to take to the United Nations the issue of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingyas, displaced by deadly sectarian violence. It described as a “crime against humanity” the Myanmar government’s handling of minority Muslims and reiterated support for the Palestinians.
The statement by the 57-nation group said: “The conference decides to suspend the Syrian Arab Republic membership in the OIC and all its subsidiary organs, specialized and affiliated institutions.”
The move had been approved on Monday at a preliminary meeting of OIC foreign ministers and was agreed on the summit’s second night despite opposition from Iran. The two-day emergency solidarity summit was held on Tuesday and Wednesday in the holy city of Makkah.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah presided over the meeting, attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose country has openly criticized the push to suspend Syria.
Participants had agreed on “the need to end immediately the acts of violence in Syria and to suspend that country from the OIC.”
The final statement said there had been “deep concern at the massacres and inhuman acts suffered by the Syrian people.”
OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told a news conference the decision sent “a strong message from the Muslim world to the Syrian regime.”
“This world can no longer accept a regime that massacres its people using planes, tanks and heavy artillery,” he added.
It was “also a message to the international community stating that the Muslim world backs a peaceful solution (in Syria), wants an end to the bloodshed and refuses to let the problem degenerate into a religious conflict and spill over” into the wider region, Ihsanoglu said.
The emergency summit of the world’s largest Islamic bloc opened late Tuesday with the suspension proposal put forward by a preparatory meeting of foreign ministers, a symbolic attempt to pile pressure on Damascus over its deadly crackdown on a 17-month uprising.
The move by the OIC, which represents 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, is aimed at further isolating Assad’s embattled regime.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League last year over its clampdown on the uprising that Assad characterized as a plot by Western and rival powers to overthrow his regime.
The meeting called for the “immediate implementation of the transitional peace plan and the development of a peaceful mechanism that would allow building a new Syrian state based on pluralism, democratic and civilian system.”
It also urged the UN Security Council to “assume fully its responsibility by stopping the ongoing violence and bloodshed in Syria and finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the Syrian crisis.”
The participants also stressed “the principal responsibility of the Syrian government for the continuation of violence and bloodshed.”
Algeria, Pakistan and Kazakhstan had called for the final statement of the summit, to which Damascus was not invited, to also pin blame on the armed opposition for the bloodshed in Syria, according to informed sources at the summit.
And Egypt’s President Muhammad Mursi proposed the formation of a committee grouping his country with key players Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to try to find a settlement to the Syrian conflict, a delegate had said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday criticized the move to suspend Syria’s membership of the OIC, saying it would not resolve the conflict and was not in line with the group’s charter.
However, a source close to the participants told AFP that the Islamic Republic which had repeatedly voiced support to its Damascus ally met the decision with a “soft reaction.”
Iran’s president had avoided mention of the Syrian conflict in a 55-minute speech on Tuesday night. “There has been a clear change in the Iranian position toward Syria,” according to a diplomat at the Makkah summit.
In a conciliatory move, King Abdullah proposed on Tuesday setting up a center in Riyadh for dialogue between Muslim Sunnis and Shiites.
In a second statement called the “Makkah Pact,” the participants proclaimed their support for “Muslim people who are oppressed like the Syrian people.”
It underlined the summit’s support for “the oppressed Muslim peoples... who face the combat aircraft and heavy guns of the regular armies as is the case of the Syrian people.”
The statement backed cooperation between Muslim states, the fight against divisions between Muslims, promotion of “moderate” Islam and the “fight against terrorism and the thinking behind it.”

Myanmar Rohingyas
Another key decision taken up by the OIC was to condemn “the continued recourse to violence by the Myanmar authorities against the members of this minority and their refusal to recognize their right to citizenship.”
“The summit has decided to bring this matter before the General Assembly of the United Nations,” it said in a final statement.
The OIC announced on Saturday before the summit that it had received a green light from Myanmar to assist displaced Rohingya.
It said Myanmar gave its agreement following talks in the capital Yangon on Friday between a delegation from the pan-Islamic body and President Thein Sein on the “deplorable humanitarian situation in Rakhine state.”
The delegation assured Thein Sein that Islamic humanitarian organizations were willing to provide aid to all residents of the strife-torn state.
King Abdullah decided last Saturday to grant $50 million to the Rohingya, describing them as victims of “several rights violations, including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement.”
Violence between Buddhists and Rohingya has left scores dead, with official figures indicating that 80 people from both sides died in initial fighting in June.
The entire state has been under emergency rule since early June with a heavy army and police presence.

— With reports from agencies

 

 

 


Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

Updated 54 min 52 sec ago

Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

  • Basra saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field

BAGHDAD: Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq shut roads to two major ports and a key oil field Wednesday, port officials and AFP correspondents said, leading to a brief operational halt.
Correspondent in oil-rich Basra province saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field.
Trucks waiting to load up goods from the ports could be seen waiting empty behind crowds of demonstrators.
Khor Al-Zubair is used for some heavy crude exports but also to import fuel products like benzene, while Umm Qasr is the main entry point for food and medicine into Iraq.
“Export and import activities have stopped because trucks cannot enter Khor Al-Zubair or Umm Qasr ports,” one official at Basra’s port authority said.
A second official later said the route to Khor Al-Zubair had been reopened but Umm Qasr remained shut.
Sit-ins have become a go-to tactic for Iraqis demonstrating against their government since early October.
Protesters have shut the road to Umm Qasr several times, causing a delay in offloading operations that on one occasion forced around a dozen ships to unload their cargo in another country.
Road closures have also impacted heavy crude from the Qayyarah field in northern Iraq from reaching Khor Al-Zubair since earlier this month.
The prime minister’s office has warned security forces “will not allow” protesters near key infrastructure, and riot police have forced roads open in deadly crackdowns.
More than 330 people have been killed since rallies erupted on October 1 in Baghdad and across the south.
In the capital’s main protest camp of Tahrir (Liberation) Square, thousands gathered Wednesday to express their ongoing frustration.
Top leaders and political parties have focused their efforts on hiring drives, more welfare and a new electoral law as immediate measures.
Parliament met late Tuesday to discuss a draft voting law that proposes downsizing the house from 329 seats to 251, shrinking districts and distributing votes according to a complex hybrid system.
But the United Nations mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said the draft law needed more work.
“The draft electoral legislation — currently under review by the Council of Representatives — requires improvements to meet public demands,” it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert urged lawmakers to pass legislation that “will reflect the public appetite for a new and different way of conducting politics.”
Protesters have so far been unimpressed by the government’s proposals and large crowds — most of them students — turned out on Wednesday.
“Last night’s session serves their own interests, not those of the people,” said Younes, a 28-year-old protester.
Crowds have spilled over from Tahrir onto three main bridges that lead to the western bank of the Tigris, where key government buildings and embassies are based.
On Tuesday night, they tried to cross two of the bridges to reach the so-called Green Zone but security forces deployed on the bridges fired tear gas to keep them back, a security source told AFP.