World Bulletin / News Desk
Syria's ongoing civil war is the "worst atrocity of the 21st century," Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi said at the opening session of the 25th Arab Summit in Kuwait.
"The ramifications [of the Syrian crisis] have been disastrous given the continued failure of the [U.N.] Security Council to produce a resolution calling for a ceasefire," al-Arabi declared at the summit's opening session.
"Terrorism continues to threaten the entire region," al-Arabi said.
"We must reach a political solution that lives up to the aspirations of the Syrian people," he added. "This crisis doesn't only threaten Syria but the rest of the world."
Al-Arabi accused the Syrian regime of hindering the internationally-backed Geneva II peace talks earlier this year by "refusing to engage in serious negotiations."
The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in late 2011 following the outbreak of civil war sparked by a wide-scale crackdown on anti-government demonstrations by the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Al-Arabi's statements come following the international community's failure to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, which entered its fourth year this month.
The Geneva talks had aimed at establishing a transitional government to end the ongoing bloodshed, which has left at least tens of thousands dead and millions displaced, according to the latest U.N. estimates.
Al-Arabi went on to admit that U.S. efforts in ongoing Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations had failed to yield tangible results, accusing Israel of "hindering" the talks.
This year's Arab summit comes amid an ongoing diplomatic row – between Qatar on one hand and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the other – over Doha's opposition to last summer's ouster of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and its perceived support for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have designated the Brotherhood a "terrorist" group.
"Rifts [between Arab states] have debilitated the Arab League's ability to take action," Al-Arabi told summit attendees.
He also pointed out that regional developments that resulted from the 2011 "Arab Spring" had posed new challenges that had rendered the Arab League's founding charter and current mandate "inadequate."
Al-Arabi saluted Egypt's interim president and Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad, both of whom are attending the summit for the first time.
Fourteen Arab heads of state are participating in this year's summit, seen as the pinnacle of diplomatic, economic and social cooperation among Arab countries.
Empty summit seat 'emboldens Assad'
Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba called on Arab nations to hand Syria's Arab League seat over to the country's opposition, saying the failure to do so only served to embolden the Bahsar al-Assad regime.
"Keeping Syria's seat empty… sends a clear message to al-Assad, which he interprets as, 'Kill, and the seat awaits you after you finish your war," Jarba said in a keynote speech at the opening session of the Arab Summit in Kuwait.
He also called on Arab countries to hand over the Syrian embassies in their respective capitals to opposition representatives after the Syrian regime had "lost legitimacy."
"I don't want you to declare war, but rather support our cause and find a solution to it," he said.
Jarba also urged Arab leaders to pressure the international community to provide opposition fighters with arms and refugees with humanitarian aid, pointing to the recent fall of two strategic towns to regime forces backed by Hezbollah fighters.
An Arab diplomat on Monday attributed the decision not to hand Syria's Arab League seat over to the Syrian opposition to "major differences" among certain Arab countries.
An opposition group inside Syria had earlier sent a letter to the Arab League asserting that the Syrian National Coalition – which spearheads the fight against the regime in Damascus – did not represent all of the Syrian opposition, the diplomatic source said.
The opposition inside Syria, which includes several opposition figures, has been accused of being allied to the al-Assad regime, especially after some of its members assumed ministerial posts in Syria's recently formed government.
League representatives had locked horns earlier over proposals to give Syria's seat in the pan-Arab body, which has remained vacant for the last two years, to the opposition coalition.
The Arab diplomat said Algeria had called for omitting the proposal from a league resolution that is expected to be endorsed by Arab leaders at the summit.
He said Iraq and Egypt had seconded the Algerian proposal, whereas Saudi Arabia and Qatar had insisted on mentioning the proposal in the resolution.
Saudi prince: Syria crisis requires shift in 'power balance'
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Salman Bin Abdulaziz reiterated his country's criticisms of the Syrian regime, stressing that the impasse in the war-torn country "requires a shift in the balance of power on the ground."
"The Syrian regime is oppressive," Prince Salman said in a keynote speech at Tuesday's opening session of the 25th Arab Summit. "It practices killing and [other forms of] violations."
He went on to express surprise that Syria's seat at the summit had not been granted to Syria's main opposition coalition, despite the attendance of coalition leader Ahmed Jarba, who delivered a speech at the opening session too.
The crown prince's assertion comes after last month's Geneva II talks failed to find a political solution to the ongoing civil war in Syria.Last Mod: 25 Mart 2014, 13:58