11 Sep 2011
Gulf Co-operation Council calls for “serious reforms” and end to bloodshed as fresh violence and arrests are reported.
The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) has called for “an immediate end to the killing machine” in Syria, and reiterated its demand for government reforms.
Ending a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the six foreign ministers of the Gulf Arab states issued a statement calling for an end to the crackdown on anti-government protesters and urging “the immediate implementation of serious reforms that meet the aspirations of the Syrian” people.
Last month, the GCC called on the Syrian leadership to “resort to wisdom” and stop the bloodshed.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled their envoys from Damascus to protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s use of force in the uprising against his family’s 41-year rule.
Qatar shut its embassy after it was attacked by Assad loyalists in July.
The United Nations estimated on August 22 that more than 2,200 people have been killed since protests began in March. Scores have been reported killed in the following weeks and Syrian activists now put the death toll closer to 3,000.
In the latest reports of bloodshed, activists said a woman was killed near the Iraqi border on Sunday.
“A 40-year-old woman was killed at noon on Sunday by a stray bullet as security forces were tracking wanted people in the town of Albu Kamal,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited an activist in Deir al-Zor province as saying.
The Observatory also said a 17-year-old boy died of wounds sustained a day earlier when security forces fired at a funeral for Ghayath Matar, an activist who reportedly died from torture in prison.
Protests were reported in several towns on Sunday and the Local Co-ordination Committees said security forces used gunfire to disperse demonstrations in Albu-Kamal and in Quseir and Talbiseh in the central Homs governorate.
Witnesses and activists also said Syrian forces had stepped up raids across the country to arrest activists.
In the town of Hirak in Deraa province, Ahmad al-Sayyed, a resident, told Reuters that troops had detained at least 250 people in the village of Jeeza, 40 in Museifra, 50 in Busra al-Harir and 30 in Naimeh in the last 48 hours.
“They shoot in the air before they begin raids. They then drag young men and use electric sticks to beat them up and haul them away to detention centers,” he said.
Earlier on Sunday, France’s foreign minister said the UN’s failure to condemn the actions of Syrian security forces against protesters was a “scandal”.
Alain Juppe also stepped up pressure on Russia to support a Security Council resolution saying it was too late for political reforms in Syria, as Russia has called for.
“We think the regime has lost its legitimacy, that it’s too late to implement a program of reform,” Juppe told reporters.
“Now we should adopt in New York the resolution condemning the violence and supporting the dialogue with the opposition,” he said.
“It’s a scandal not to have a clearer position of the UN on such a terrible crisis”.
The developments come after Nabil el-Araby, the head of the Arab League, said he had reached an agreement on reforms with Assad during talks in Damascus on Saturday.
Russia, a UN member with veto power, has resisted international attempts to condemn the violence and refused to back Western calls for Assad to quit.
The Syrian authorities blame what they describe as terrorists for the bloodshed and say hundreds of members of the security forces are among the dead. Opposition activists also acknowledge the deaths of of about 500 security personnel.