An Arab League summit yesterday called for an international probe into the “criminal” use of chemical weapons in Syria and condemned what it saw as Iran’s interference in the affairs of other countries.
“We stress our absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people and we demand an independent international investigation to guarantee the application of international law against anyone proven to have used chemical weapons,” said a statement distributed to journalists.
It emphasised the need for a political solution to the multi-sided Syrian war.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have expressed support for Saturday’s missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France against alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, while Iraq and Lebanon condemned the strikes.
Damascus denies using or possessing chemical weapons and called the strikes an act of aggression.
Military help over the past three years from Russia and Iran has allowed Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to crush the opposition threat to topple him.
The communique called for more international sanctions on Iran and urged it to withdraw “its militias” from Syria and Yemen.
“The summit condemned Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, either through igniting sectarian strife or planting militias in Arab countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, and harbouring al Qaeda terrorists,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told a news conference.
Iran, which denies the accusations, rejected the condemnation as the result of Saudi pressure.
“The heavy shadow of destructive Saudi policies is evident in … the final statement of the summit,” Iranian state media quoted Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying in Tehran.
Most of the 22 other countries sent heads of state or government to attend the Arab League summit in the oil-rich Saudi city of Dhahran. Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani was absent from the meeting having returned from an official visit to the US on Saturday.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt launched a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar in early June last year accusing the small Gulf state of supporting terrorism, claims Doha refutes. Leaked emails from UAE ambassador to the US show the action is more an effort to force Qatar to align with the Saudi-UAE agenda in the region.
Tunisia will host the next Arab League summit in 2019.