Islamic leaders gather to discuss Syrian conflict

Islamic leaders gather to discuss Syrian conflict

Deutsche Welle, 14 August 2012

Foreign ministers from the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation convene in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. They are expected to suspend Syria’s membership due to the crackdown on a 17-month-old rebellion.

The meeting comes as China's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, hosts an envoy of Syrian president Bashar Assad in Beijing. China's foreign ministry said Bouthaina Shaaban would hold talks with Yang as part of China's push to “promote a political solution” to the Syrian conflict.

According to ministry spokesman Qin Gang, China is also considering sending an invitation to a group representing the Syrian opposition for talks in Beijing.

China, along with Russia, have blocked efforts by the UN Security Council to further intervene in the conflict by using their veto power to strike down proposed resolutions.

Tuesday's meetings come a day after Syrian rebels claim they shot down a military plane belonging to the government forces. The rebels also say they are holding the pilot Syria's state news agency, SANA, reported that the plane had technical problems during the flight, forcing the pilot to eject during a routine training mission.

Opposition forces uploaded a video to YouTube on Monday that purported to show a warplane under heavy gunfire. In the footage, the jet bursts into flames and continues flying followed by a heavy trail of smoke.

During the 17-month uprising against Assad's government, opposition forces have generally been thought too ill-equipped to attack more developed military equipment such as fighter jets. The rebels claimed on Monday that they had used 14.5 calibre anti-aircraft machine gun to down the plane.

To the north of the main conflict in Aleppo, Turkish officials said on Monday that some 7,000 people fled across Syria's northern border over the weekend. According to the country's Disaster and Emergency Administration, nearly

60,000 people have fled to Turkey to escape the fighting in Syria.

Germany's development minister, Dirk Niebel, pledged more aid to Syrian refugees in Jordan on Monday. Germany is due to donate an additional 10 million euros ($12 million) in order to improve drinking water supplies.

"We want to help make sure that no conflicts arise between the native population and the refugees," Niebel told reporters during a visit to the capital city Amman.

An estimated 150,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan over the past 17 months.

On Tuesday, the United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos arrived in Damascus to discuss the "deteriorating humanitarian situation" with the Syrian regime.

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