The Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria’s
membership, citing President Bashar Assad’s violent suppression of
the Syrian revolt, and also decided to take to the United
Nations the issue of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingyas, displaced by
deadly sectarian violence, early on Thursday at a summit of Muslim
leaders in Makkah.
In the closing statement, the OIC described as a “crime against
humanity” the Myanmar government’s handling of minority Muslims
and reiterated support for the Palestinians.
The statement by the 57-nation group said: “The conference decides
to suspend the Syrian Arab Republic membership in the OIC and all
its subsidiary organs, specialized and affiliated institutions.”
The move had been approved on Monday at a preliminary meeting of
OIC foreign ministers and was agreed on the summit’s second night
despite opposition from Iran. The two-day emergency solidarity
summit was held on Tuesday and Wednesday in the holy city of
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah presided over the
meeting, attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose
country has openly criticized the push to suspend Syria.
Participants had agreed on “the need to end immediately the acts
of violence in Syria and to suspend that country from the OIC.”
The final statement said there had been “deep concern at the
massacres and inhuman acts suffered by the Syrian people.”
OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told a news conference
that the decision sent “a strong message from the Muslim world to the
“This world can no longer accept a regime that massacres its
people using planes, tanks and heavy artillery,” he added.
It was “also a message to the international community stating that
the Muslim world backs a peaceful solution (in Syria), wants an
end to the bloodshed and refuses to let the problem degenerate
into a religious conflict and spill over” into the wider region,
The emergency summit of the world’s largest Islamic bloc opened
late Tuesday with the suspension proposal put forward by a
preparatory meeting of foreign ministers, a symbolic attempt to
pile pressure on Damascus over its deadly crackdown on a 17-month
The move by the OIC, which represents 1.5 billion Muslims
worldwide, is aimed at further isolating Assad’s embattled regime.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League last year over its
clampdown on the uprising that Assad characterized as a plot by
Western and rival powers to overthrow his regime.
The meeting called for the “immediate implementation of the
transitional peace plan and the development of a peaceful
mechanism that would allow building a new Syrian state based on
pluralism, democratic and civilian system.”
It also urged the UN Security Council to “assume fully its
responsibility by stopping the ongoing violence and bloodshed in
Syria and finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the Syrian
The participants also stressed “the principal responsibility of
the Syrian government for the continuation of violence and
Algeria, Pakistan and Kazakhstan had called for the final
statement of the summit, to which Damascus was not invited, to
also pin blame on the armed opposition for the bloodshed in Syria,
according to informed sources at the summit.
And Egypt’s President Muhammad Mursi proposed the formation of a
committee grouping his country with key players Iran, Saudi Arabia
and Turkey to try to find a settlement to the Syrian conflict, a
delegate had said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday criticized the
move to suspend Syria’s membership of the OIC, saying it would not
resolve the conflict and was not in line with the group’s charter.
However, a source close to the participants told AFP that the
Islamic Republic which had repeatedly voiced support to its
Damascus ally met the decision with a “soft reaction.”
Iran’s president had avoided mention of the Syrian conflict in a
55-minute speech on Tuesday night. “There has been a clear change
in the Iranian position toward Syria,” according to a diplomat at
the Makkah summit.
In a conciliatory move, King Abdullah proposed on Tuesday setting
up a center in Riyadh for dialogue between Muslim Sunnis and
In a second statement called the “Makkah Pact,” the participants
proclaimed their support for “Muslim people who are oppressed like
the Syrian people.”
It underlined the summit’s support for “the oppressed Muslim
peoples... who face the combat aircraft and heavy guns of the
regular armies as is the case of the Syrian people.”
The statement backed cooperation between Muslim states, the fight
against divisions between Muslims, promotion of “moderate” Islam
and the “fight against terrorism and the thinking behind it.”
Another key decision taken up by the OIC was to condemn “the
continued recourse to violence by the Myanmar authorities against
the members of this minority and their refusal to recognize their
right to citizenship.”
“The summit has decided to bring this matter before the General
Assembly of the United Nations,” it said in a final statement.
The OIC announced on Saturday before the summit that it had
received a green light from Myanmar to assist displaced Rohingya.
It said Myanmar gave its agreement following talks in the capital
Yangon on Friday between a delegation from the pan-Islamic body
and President Thein Sein on the “deplorable humanitarian situation
in Rakhine state.”
The delegation assured Thein Sein that Islamic humanitarian
organizations were willing to provide aid to all residents of the
King Abdullah decided last Saturday to grant $50 million to the
Rohingya, describing them as victims of “several rights
violations, including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced
Violence between Buddhists and Rohingya has left scores dead, with
official figures indicating that 80 people from both sides died in
initial fighting in June.
The entire state has been under emergency rule since early June
with a heavy army and police presence.
Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad who was present in the meeting and was given warm
welcome after his arrival in Saudi Arabia for the summit, has
openly criticized the push to suspend Syria.
In his first published comments since the summit opened,
Ahmadinejad appeared to rebuff the suspension.
On Iran’s Mehr news agency on Wednesday he said countries which
wanted the Syrian crisis solved must come up with a plan of action
to do so.
“But unfortunately some of our brothers and friends have not acted
well in this area and instead of inviting the conflicting parties
for talks and understanding, they are busy sending weapons into
the country and encouraging slaughter,” he added.
However, the summit, which has taken place late on consecutive
nights because of the Ramadan fast, had been billed as a
diplomatic showdown between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shiite
Iran, which have backed different sides in sectarian conflicts in
the Middle East.
Saudi King Abdullah tried to conciliate Iran at the summit opening
by placing Ahmadinejad at his side to welcome Muslim leaders in a
gesture Saudi political analysts said was aimed at putting old
grievances aside in the quest for a resolution to the Syrian
He also suggested founding a center for dialogue between Islam’s
sects, another move aimed at defusing some of the region’s
sectarian tensions. That proposal was adopted by the summit.