Syria has called for an emergency summit of Arab League heads of state to discuss unrest in the country, a day after the regional bloc threatened to suspend its membership if it did not end its deadly months-long crackdown on anti-government protests.
The objective of the proposed summit would be to discuss the unrest’s “negative repercussions on the Arab situation”, reported Syrian state television on Sunday.
The Arab League on Saturday gave Syria a three-day deadline to end its crackdown or face sanctions. If Syria failed to comply, the regional bloc said the suspension would take effect on November 16.
The move, while short of a full suspension, was the strongest action that the Arab League has taken to curb the violence since protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule erupted in mid-March.
Nabil Elaraby, the bloc’s secretary-general, announced on Sunday that it would meet with representatives of Syrian groups opposed to Assad on Tuesday, but said it was too soon for the Cairo-based body to consider recognising the Syrian opposition as the legitimate authority of the country.
“Recognition of them as a government? Maybe it is a bit premature to discuss that,” he said.
Opposition sources, meanwhile, told Al Jazeera that security forces killed at least 26 people at various demonstrations across the country.
The violence reportedly happened in Damascus, the capital, in the cities of Hama and Homs and in the southern and eastern provinces of Deraa and Deir Az Zour.
At the official level, Syria denounced the Arab League’s decision as “illegal and a violation of the organisation’s charter”.
Yussef Ahmad, Syria’s envoy to the Arab League, insisted his country had already implemented an Arab peace deal that it previously agreed to, and accused the US of ordering the suspension.
He also charged that the regional bloc was trying to “provoke foreign intervention in Syria, as was the case in Libya”.
“It was clear [the decision] was decided through a US order,” Ahmad said, accusing the Arab League of working to an “American agenda”.
The embassies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as French and Turkish consulates, were attacked by government supporters on Saturday night, drawing more diplomatic condemnation of the Syrian government.
Local residents said hundreds of men, shouting slogans in support of Assad and armed with sticks and knives, broke into the Saudi embassy in Abu Rummaneh, three blocks away from Assad’s offices in one of the most heavily policed areas of Damascus.
They smashed windows and ransacked some areas, prompting the Saudi foreign ministry strongly to condemn the attack and hold the Syrian authorities responsible for protecting its interests.
Syrian security forces confronted the protesters with batons and tear gas but were unable to stop a group from breaking into the Qatari embassy and bringing down the Qatari flag, replacing it with the Syrian flag.
Reports said crowds also attacked the French and Turkish consulates in the coastal city of Latakia.
France on Sunday condemned the attack and summoned the Syrian ambassador for an explanation.
“Attempted attacks on France’s honourary consulate in Latakia and the detached chancery in Aleppo by organised groups of demonstrators to which security forces did not react are unacceptable,” the French foreign ministry said.
“Syria’s ambassador to France [Lamia Shakkour] is summoned to the foreign ministry for a reminder of Syria’s international obligations.
“The Syrian regime is held entirely responsible for these excesses and will have to give an explanation.”
Meanwhile, Turkey reacted by ordering the evacuation of all non-essential diplomatic personnel from Syria. Only Omer Onhon, the ambassador, and diplomatic staff remained behind.