No Syria Military Intervention, Says Head of Islamic Bloc

February 15, 2012 - 1:15 AM
OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu

Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. (Photo: OIC)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The international community must rule out military intervention as a solution to the Syrian crisis, the leader of a global Islamic group said Wednesday.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said he remained involved in "quiet diplomacy activities" with Syrian President Bashar Assad over the power struggle that has cost more than 5,000 lives over the last 11 months. The violence has led to the Middle Eastern country's most severe international isolation in more than four decades of Assad family rule.

"What we really need to do is exclude military intervention from our side," Ihsanoglu told the National Press Club of Australia during a visit to Canberra as a guest of the Australian government.

Ihsanoglu, who was born in Egypt and lives in Turkey, said the lesson from conflicts in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia was that outside military intervention "did not bring any good to the people of those countries and to the region ... and to the world at large."

Arab and Western countries had pushed for a U.N. resolution supporting calls for Assad to hand over some powers to defuse the crisis, but Russia and China vetoed the measure this month.

Ihsanoglu did not address a proposal put forth Sunday by the 22-member Arab League, calling for the U.N. Security Council to create a joint peacekeeping force for Syria and urging Arab states to sever all diplomatic contact with Assad's regime.

Syria immediately rejected the proposal, which was adopted by League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.

A proposed U.N. General Assembly resolution, circulated Tuesday by Egypt, would strongly condemn human rights violations by the Syrian regime. It backs Arab League efforts to end the conflict but makes no specific reference to a peacekeeping force.

Diplomats say the resolution is likely to be put to a vote Thursday in the 193-member world body, where there are no vetoes. While General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding, they do reflect world opinion on major issues.

The OIC was established in Morocco in 1969 at an Islamic summit of 25 Muslim countries "to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world."