Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on leaders of the so-called BRICS group of emerging-markets nations to help end the country’s two-year civil war after the Arab League further isolated his government by handing membership to the opposition.
Syria has suffered from “terrorism that is supported by Arab, regional and Western countries,” Assad said in a letter to the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and published on the website of the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. He said the five countries, which are meeting in South Africa, offered hope to oppressed peoples experiencing foreign interference.
Russia and China have stymied attempts by the U.S., France and the U.K. to force United Nations Security Council action against Assad. The civil war has killed about 100,000 people, displaced a quarter of the Syrian population and left 200,000 people in government captivity, opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib said during yesterday’s Arab League summit in Doha.
At the same meeting on March 24, Arab foreign ministers agreed to give Syria’s vacant seat in the 22-member group to an executive body to be formed by the Syrian National Council.
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Assad’s appeal to the BRICS highlights Syria’s isolation.
“You see them sort of flailing for any last shred of support they can garner, which is very limited,” Ventrell said today. “That stands in contrast, obviously, to the Syrian Opposition Coalition’s participation in the Arab League summit, where they took the historic decision to seat the opposition coalition.”
The Syrian and Iranian governments rejected the league’s decision to do so. Syria’s representative at the Arab League, Ahmed Youssef, described it as an “illegal precedent.” The decision was a “bad innovation” and will make “problems for the decision makers,” the Iranian Students News Agency said, citing Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
Al-Khatib, the opposition leader who announced on March 24 that he was resigning from his post, said today that a panel will make a final decision on the issue. He gave no further details when asked whether he would withdraw his resignation.