On August 16, the Islamic Conference Organization-–a 57-member group of Muslim countries –suspended Syria’s membership in response to the government’s clampdown on internal opposition. Iran and Algeria objected to the OIC move, although an absolute majority of members approved it. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi attended the OIC summit held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The following is the excerpt from the OIC’s final communiqué, along with statements by senior Iranian officials and the reaction from the U.S. State Department.
OIC Communiqué on Syria
14- The Conference stresses the need to preserve Syria’s unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity; strongly condemns the ongoing bloodshed in Syria and underlines the Syrian regime’s responsibility for the continued violence and destruction of property. The Conference expresses grave concern over the deteriorating situation, the increasing frequency of killings, which claimed the lives of thousands of unarmed civilians, and the perpetration of massacres in towns and villages by the Syrian authorities.
15- The Conference affirms the importance of protecting religious and historical sites in Syria from destruction, and expresses hope for taking the necessary measures in this regard.
16- The Conference condemns Syria’s downing of a Turkish military aircraft, and considers this act as a serious threat to peace and security in the region.
17- The Conference welcomes the resolution of the UN General Assembly on the Situation in Syria dated 3 August 2012, which condemns in the strongest terms the large-scale and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities; as well as the use of force against civilians, the arbitrary executions, killings and persecution.
18- The Conference calls upon the Syrian authorities to immediately cease all acts of violence, abstain from using violence against defenseless civilians; refrain from committing human rights violations and call their perpetrators to account; fulfill all its regional and international obligations; release all detainees; and allow relief and humanitarian agencies to provide urgent assistance to the victims of these events in coordination with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
19- In the absence of any tangible results on the implementation of the UN-Arab League envoy’s initiative to resolve the Syrian crisis, as well as the Arab initiative and the resolutions of the OIC Executive Committee, and due to the Syrian regime’s intransigence and persistent pursuit of a military solution to the crisis, the Conference decides to suspend the Syrian Arab Republic’s membership in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and all its subsidiary organs, specialized and affiliated institutions, pursuant to the outcome of the Executive Committee meeting held at ministerial level on 24 June 2012.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, August 13, 2012
“By suspending the membership, this does not mean you are moving towards resolving an issue. By this, you are erasing the issue. Every country, especially OIC countries must join hands to resolve this issue in such a way that will help the peace security and stability in the region.”
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, August 16, 2012
“Iran opposed suspending Syria’s membership as it was against the Charter of the OIC. The Syrian government should have been invited to the meeting prior to this decision so that it could defend itself and the attendees could listen to the Syrian government’s official views.”
U.S. Department of State Reaction
On August 15, Spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters, “Today the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) sent a strong message to the Assad regime by suspending Syria’s membership in the OIC. The United States commends the OIC for its action and commitment to a peaceful resolution in Syria. Today’s action underscores the Assad regime’s increasing international isolation and the widespread support for the Syrian people and their struggle for a democratic state that represents their aspirations and respects their human rights.”
Source: United States Institute of Peace