Immediately after the meeting, the 11-member Arab Ministerial Committee on Syria decided to assign the current head of the Arab League, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim, to represent it at the mooted Geneva conference. Qatar is among the states most implicated in militarily backing Islamist fighters and will represent the foreign ministers of Qatar, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The foreign ministers denounced Iran and Hezbollah's support for the Assad regime as a threat to regional stability.
In Europe, Kerry has been lobbying hard for European states to drop their opposition to Britain and France's plan to lift legal restrictions on arming the opposition. So far, Italy and Spain have backed the lifting of the arms embargo, while Germany has effectively done so, taking a "neutral" stand.
Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo spoke cynically of allowing the delivery of "defence material for people's protection" that apparently includes arms and anti-aircraft batteries. He even spoke at a joint press conference with Mouaz al-Khatib.
A decision will be taken on lifting the embargo on Monday, May 27.
Israel too is becoming increasingly involved in the conflict, with three direct strikes on Syria so far this month.
The Israeli media has been discussing the advisability of establishing a new buffer zone on the Syrian side of the 43-mile cease-fire line established in 1973, following an attack on an Israeli military vehicle that had crossed the line in the disputed Golan Heights. To do so would require a full-scale invasion. There are also reports of efforts to establish a proxy force, based upon the minority Druze population near the border.
On May 23, Major General Amir Eshel, commander of the air force, warned that unrest in the Middle East could result in Israel becoming involved in a "surprise war" with Syria. He cited the possibility of Islamist forces gaining control of chemical and other weapons as a casus beli for "having to act on a very broad scale."
War with both Syria and Lebanon could be imminent, he said. "It's not as if we can say we have two weeks to prepare. I am not sure we have two weeks to prepare," he added, given that advanced Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles are on their way to Syria.
The previous day, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz warned Assad that he would "bear the consequences" in the event of further attacks on Israeli forces. "If Assad destabilizes the Golan Heights, he will pay a heavy price," he said. "He needs to know that we will know how to defend ourselves and we will respond should the need arise."
Paralleling the denunciations of the Assad regime, a key aide to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister Yuval Steinitz, warned that Iran's nuclear industry was "many times larger than that of either North Korea or Pakistan." He said that Tehran was intent on becoming a "nuclear superpower."
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