Syria apologizes for attacks on diplomatic missions
Syria's Foreign Minister Waled al-Moallem shows documents during a news conference in Damascus on Nov. 14, 2011, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. (Photo: Reuters)
Syrian Foreign Minister Waled al-Moallem apologized on Monday for attacks on foreign diplomatic missions after the Arab League announced it was suspending Damascus for its crackdown on eight months of protests against President Bashar al-Assad.
A crowd of about 1,000 attacked the Turkish embassy in Damascus on Saturday evening, as news spread that the Arab League had taken action against Syria for failing to halt its armed crackdown on eight months of pro-democracy demonstrations. The attackers threw stones and bottles before Syrian police intervened to break up the protest. Attacks were also staged against Turkey's consulate in Aleppo and its honorary consulate in Latakia.
In addition to Turkish diplomatic missions, Saudi Arabian embassy and France's honorary consulate in Latakia were also attacked.
"As for attacks on foreign embassies, as foreign minister I apologize for these aggressions," Moallem told a televised news conference in Damascus.
In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who vowed earlier in the day to take a "decisive stance" towards Syria over attacks on its diplomatic missions, said the Turkish government was aware of the apology. "I will make a statement later on," he told reporters.
Arab League suspension ‘dangerous step'
Moallem also lashed out at an Arab League decision to suspend Syria, saying it was "an extremely dangerous step" at a time when Damascus was implementing a deal with the organization to end violence and start a dialogue with the opposition.
Syria had withdrawn troops from urban areas, released prisoners and offered an amnesty to armed insurgents under the terms of the initiative agreed with the Arab League two weeks ago to end eight months of unrest, Moallem said.
The United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed in Syria's crackdown on protests demanding the end to President Assad's rule. Damascus blames armed groups for the violence and says 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed.
‘Libya scenario will not be repeated'
Moallem described Washington's welcome of the Arab League move as "incitement" and expressed confidence that Russia and China would continue to block Western efforts at the United Nations to condemn Syrian actions. He also played down the prospect of any Western military intervention in Syria.
"The Libya scenario will not be repeated", he said, arguing that Arab and Western countries knew they may pay a higher military price to confront the Syrian Army.
Moallem said Damascus was organizing a dialogue with opposition figures and "all elements of Syrian society", which he said were not all represented by the government or the opposition.
"We have reached the beginning of the end of the crisis," he said.
Syria called on Sunday for an emergency Arab summit to discuss the unrest. Moallem said that if the Arab League ignored its request, it would show that the 22-member organization had "abandoned the Arab initiative" to resolve the impasse.