THE 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), at an emergency meeting in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Sunday, called for the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers to Syria. It was part of a proposed package of measures to deal with worsening humanitarian conditions in the country and the burgeoning refugee crisis.
The secretary general of OIC, Iyad Ameen Madani, said that the refugee crisis was "not just a Middle Eastern problem, a regional or international problem: it is a global problem. It is imperative, therefore, that the UN take proactive steps to address the instability and insecurity within Syria that has caused this exodus. A multi-dimensional UN peace-keeping operation" could help provide stability.
Appealing as this solution sounds, it is unlikely to result in UN troops’ being deployed on peace-keeping duties in Syria in the near future. Trying to secure agreement from the permanent members of the Security Council, the Syrian government, and the many opposition groups to such a deployment would present a nightmare of a diplomatic challenge.
Not only do the United States and Russia, for example, differ greatly over the form and shape of a future Syria, but also several OIC members are themselves involved directly or indirectly on different sides in the Syrian war. Some of the latter are insisting that President Assad be removed from power, and so they would be unlikely to sign up to a deal that saw the UN deployed before a change of regime.
Aside from calling for UN intervention in Syria, the OIC gathering in Jeddah urged Islamic countries to do more to help Syrian refugees "as a mark of Islamic compassion and solidarity. The meeting commended the generosity of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt for hosting" the homeless Syrians "in spite of limited resources and capacity". The oil-rich Gulf states have been criticised in some quarters for not doing more to help absorb some of the refugees trying to reach Europe.
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