Arab League foreign ministers on Sunday night urged for UN-backed “deterrent” action in Syria over the Bashar Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons last month in an incident the US says killed 1,429 people.
The Arab League discussed the ongoing Syria crisis in a series of closed-door meetings in Cairo.
“The United Nations and the international community are called upon to assume their responsibilities in line with the UN Charter and international law by taking the necessary deterrent measures against the culprits of this crime that the Syrian regime bears responsibility for,” the ministers said in a statement following their session.
Those responsible should face trial as “war criminals,” they added.
“Firstly, greatly condemning this horrific crime that has been committed by the use of chemical weapons, which are globally forbidden in an excessive consternation of humanitarian morals and international law,” said Arab League senior official, Nassif Hitti.
“Secondly, putting full responsibility of such horrendous attacks on the Syrian regime, and demanding the punishment and prosecution of all those involved in such a crime to international tribunals to be tried in equality with those convicted of war crimes.”
Earlier, the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, and Ahmed Aljarba, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the coalition of Syrian opposition groups, urged the League to back military intervention in Syria.
“I am here before you today to appeal to your brotherly and humanitarian sentiments and ask you to back the international operation against the destructive war machine,” Aljarba said.
Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria voiced their opposition to foreign military intervention.
The Arab League session on Syria, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was brought forward to Sunday “in light of rapid developments in the Syria situation and based on the request of several Arab states,” according to Ahmed Ben Helli, Arab League deputy chief.
The 22-member organization is viewed by the US government as an ally in case of an attack on Syria. Prominent League members, such as Qatar and the UAE, have participated in the US-led military campaign in Libya in 2011, and some Gulf countries host American bases on their territories.
The League suspended Syria’s membership in 2011, has since offered its seat to the SNC, and has also allowed its members to arm the opposition forces in the country.
US President Barack Obama on Saturday formally asked Congress to consider a military response in Syria, a day after he stunned many in the international community by announcing he would seek approval congressional approval before taking action.
Earlier Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the case for action against Syria, saying in a series of interviews that the administration learned of sarin gas use through samples of hair and blood provided to Washington by first responders in Damascus.