Syria’s government is waging “a war of extermination” against its own people, the emir of Qatar said Tuesday, according to state media, hours after a failed four-day ceasefire during a Muslim holiday left hundreds dead.
In strongly worded comments to the Al Jazeera Arabic network, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani also accused foreign powers of standing by while President Bashar al-Assad’s forces carried out a slaughter.
“What is happening in Syria is not a civil war but a genocide, a war of extermination with a license to kill by the Syrian government and the international community,” he said, according to the official Qatar News Agency.
Sheikh Hamad, who’s also Qatar’s foreign minister, said he had confidence in U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi — but that his country did not trust Al-Assad’s government.
Brahimi had pushed for government forces and rebels to stop fighting during Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday that began Friday and ended Monday. But it soon became clear the violence was continuing almost unabated.
“When the Syrian government announced that it would comply with the truce, it also announced that its military would respond to anything that took place on the ground, and it was clear from this rhetoric that there was no truce,” Sheikh Hamad said, according to QNA.
“Everyone knows what the solution is and what the Syrian people want. Everything that is happening now is a waste of time and just buying time to kill the Syrian people and to destroy the Syrian infrastructure.”
A group that documents the names of those killed in Syria’s conflict, the Violation Documenting Center, put the total number of those killed during the failed ceasefire at 407.
The VDC, which works closely with the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria, puts the total civilian toll at 32,013 over some 20 months of violence, with 2,900 government soldiers killed in the same period.
The LCC said the death toll so far Tuesday was 35, most of them in Idlib province, where it said the city of Maarat Al-Numan is being shelled.
Sheikh Hamad said he sensed “a bigger awakening” among Arab nations and in the wider international community over the crisis in Syria, despite moves by Russia and China to block tougher U.N. Security Council action. But, he said, a “paralysis” would prevent action until after the outcome of the U.S. elections.
In other developments:
Brahimi met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the first time Monday to discuss what to do about the Syrian civil war, before traveling to Beijing Tuesday to meet senior officials there.
Following the meeting, Russia accused the United Nations of double standards for failing to condemn a Monday car bombing in a pro-Assad stronghold near the capital, Damascus.
Syria’s foreign ministry also wrote to U.N Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to criticize the United Nation’s failure to condemn such attacks — an omission it said “encouraged terrorists to continue committing crimes against the Syrian people.”
Lavrov said on his own Twitter feed that Russia was disappointed at the lack of support for Brahimi’s call for a holiday truce, but that it appreciated his efforts to try to “find potential collaborative ways for the international community” to help stabilize Syria.
The Russian-French Security Cooperation Council will meet in Paris October 31, the foreign ministry said.
Speaking after his meeting with Lavrov, Brahimi said neither side in Syria is showing signs of backing down.
“The government says they are fighting terrorists and only terrorists, and that it is their duty to do so — to protect their people. And the other side says we’re fighting a very cruel government that is persecuting us, and we’re defending ourselves,” Brahimi said after the meeting.
He recalled speaking with a woman who has one son in the Syrian military and another son in the rebel Free Syrian Army. “If that is not civil war, I don’t know what is,” Brahimi said.
Diplomacy with Russia is a delicate dance. Russia, along with China, has repeatedly vetoed attempts at the U.N. Security Council to take stronger action against al-Assad.
Many have accused Russia of backing the Syrian government, but Russia says it just wants a political solution for Syria determined by its own people.