The Syrian conflict threatens to consume the Middle East in a “volcano of violence and war,” Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told world leaders today in Germany.
An Israeli air strike inside Syria, the first since the unrest began, “is likely to add fuel to the fire,” al-Thani said. It isn’t in the interest of Qatar, which has armed rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, “to bet on a particular faction” inside the country, he said.
Assad warned on state television that the reported Jan. 30 Israeli strike showed the Jewish nation was trying to destabilize his government and that Syrian forces were prepared to respond. Assad spoke after meeting with Saeed Jalili, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and a key Syrian ally.
The conflict has killed more than 60,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee to neighboring countries. The Assad regime’s use of air attacks against civilians has provoked international outcry. The United Nations hasn’t been able to provide relief inside the country because of gaps between Russian, U.S. and European positions.
“The UN Security Council has failed,” al-Thani said. “We consider the Security Council directly responsible for the bloodshed that continues in Syria.”
UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, underscoring his Jan. 29 report to the Security Council that Syria is unraveling, told the Munich conference Feb. 1 that the council is “all that’s left” to resolve the turmoil. He sat on a panel beside opposition leader Moaz Al-Khatib, who told defense officials that while he was willing to negotiate he would call for a military solution if all other avenues were exhausted.
Assad’s fall “would be a major blow to the Iranians and Hezbollah as well,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today at the conference. “Even in a tough neighborhood like ours, I don’t understand how these guys in Iran are supporting him.”
Israel is concerned by an estimated 10,000 warheads in Syria as well as Iran’s continued supply of weapons to Assad’s fighters, Barak said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, also in Munich, said that while Assad’s regime has made mistakes it would be a mistake to overthrow him. “Let the UN settle the issue,” Salehi said, adding that Iran was ready to participate in Brahimi’s plans for negotiations.
“President Assad, a tyrant hellbent on clinging to power, is no longer fit to lead the Syrian people and he must go,” U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden told an audience yesterday in Munich. He met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Brahimi and Al-Khatib while in the German city.
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