Jeddah: Arab countries in the Gulf on Sunday lambasted Syria’s regime for deploying heavy weapons against civilians while telling Iran in no uncertain terms that they would not tolerate meddling in their internal affairs.
The six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at a meeting in Jeddah also urged the international community to “assume their responsibilities and take measures to protect civilians” in Syria, where according to a watchdog more than 26,000 people have been killed in a revolt that erupted in March, 2011.
The GCC in a statement issued after the meeting in the western Saudi city condemned “the ongoing massacres which are due to the obstinacy of the regime in using heavy weapons, including planes and tanks” against civilians.
The Gulf states ordered Iran to halt its “interference” in their internal affairs, citing an incident at the opening of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran when an official interpreter reportedly replaced the word “Syria” with “Bahrain” in a speech by Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi.
The GCC statement asked Tehran to “cease these acts and not resort to or threaten to use force”.
Bahrain had earlier issued a statement saying it had “requested the Iranian government apologise for this act, and take the necessary action to correct the breach and ensure that actions like this one don’t happen again”.
Relations between Tehran and Manama have been rocky over Iran’s vocal criticism of Bahrain’s crackdown on anti-government protests. There is no love lost either between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has criticised Saudi military involvement in putting down the Bahrain protests and flooding the world market with its oil. The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, supports the rebels in Syria fighting to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Iran is Al Assad’s biggest ally and has pledged him full support in his fight.
Tehran, however, accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of arming and financing the Syrian rebels.