The rise in Islamist militancy and sectarian fighting in Syria could lead to regional consequences that could take “decades to remedy,” the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said yesterday.
“The OIC has cautioned on many occasions about the danger of sectarian violence in Syria. Such a conflict, once it takes on a sectarian dimension, is bound to destabilize the entire region,” OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ýhsanoðlu said in an interview with the Al-Arabiya website.
Analysts warn that the foray into Syria’s civil war by Lebanon’s Hezbollah has fueled a Sunni-Shiite polarization that threatens to feed extremism on both sides and export the conflict to the wider region.
“Under such a terrible scenario, the region will face catastrophic consequences that may take decades to remedy,” Ýhsanoðlu said. The OIC chief said last week that he sees a no-fly zone in Syria as a step toward providing the conditions for a negotiated end to the crisis. Ýhsanoðlu defended the suspension of Syria’s OIC membership since August 2012 due to increasing violence in the country.
“The suspension of Syria’s membership in the OIC was decided after a long series of initiatives to resolve the conflict peacefully. In fact, the Syrian regime never responded positively to our genuine endeavors in this regard,” Ýhsanoðlu said.
He urged Islamic states embroiled in the Syrian crisis to dispel their differences over the conflict. The civil war has been increasingly drawing in nations across the Middle East, pitting Muslim states against other Muslim states, he said.
“Our member states are urged to coordinate closely to dissipate their differences and articulate a common position vis-a-vis the Syrian crisis by exerting pressure on the regime in Damascus to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the opposition in order to find a peaceful way out of the bloody crisis,” he added.
Over the upcoming peace conference, Ýhsanoðlu said the Islamic body would play an important role.
“As for the upcoming Geneva II meeting, our member states are aware that this is perhaps a unique opportunity to tap before the situation in [Syria] flies into an unmanageable conflagration with dire ramifications for the whole region and beyond.”
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