The unrelenting bloodbath of innocent Syrians at the hands of the discredited and isolated Bashar Assad regime dominated discussions at the preparatory meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers at the Conference Palace in Jeddah yesterday. Foreign ministers from more than 50 mostly Muslim countries were giving final touches to the resolutions to be adopted at the Islamic Solidarity Summit that begins in Makkah Tuesday. It is at the invitation of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah that presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of the world’s leading Muslim countries have converged in Saudi Arabia. The benevolent king’s initiative has received wide backing and has been described as a “much-needed balm for the bruised and battered Muslims around the globe.” The foreign ministers described King Abdullah as the only voice of reason and wisdom in the cacophony of chaos all around. OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu called King Abdullah’s initiative a source of optimism. “It stems from his deep-rooted concern for the interests of Muslims ... King Abdullah’s noble and praiseworthy action (has the capacity) to end conflicts and discord, promote commonalities and step away from the causes of grudge and conflict, including sectarian and ethnic issues,” he said while addressing the foreign ministers. Ihsanoglu said good intentions and a spirit of tolerance can lead to harmony, rapprochement and peace. “They will enable us to address the real challenges ahead of us, namely development, advancing our religion, defending it against hostile campaigns and restoring peace and security throughout the Muslim world,” he said. “The dangerous events taking place in the Muslim world compel us to unite our efforts in order to reinforce ties of true solidarity.” The foreign ministers discussed a number of proposals, issues and challenges that confront the Muslim world during a closed-door session. Among the many proposals is the expulsion of the murderous Bashar Al-Assad regime. Possible solutions to the tragedy of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, a united response to Israel’s nefarious attempt to erase the history surrounding Al-Quds Al-Shareef and the targeting of the Islamic identity of Masjid Al-Aqsa were under discussion at the meeting. In the absence of Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, who is convalescing in a hospital following a minor surgery, the meeting was chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah. He read out Prince Saud’s address to the foreign ministers. Prince Saud said he was happy to see the tremendous response to King Abdullah’s call for the emergency summit. “This reflects the sincere desire of all OIC member countries to confront the challenges facing us and strengthen Islamic unity,” he added. Prince Saud decried the disunity among Muslim countries, threatening the Ummah’s entity and existence. “This division and infighting will not only weaken the Ummah but also give others chance to interfere in its affairs,” he pointed out. He emphasized the need for Muslim countries to stand united in the face of challenges. He said the summit leaders would discuss effective and practical solutions to end division based on sectarianism and religious schools of thought and for Muslim countries to respect one another. Prince Saud quoted a Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that urges Muslims to support one another like organs of a human body. In his address, Ihsanoglu minced no words while launching a scathing attack on the Assad regime. “Everyone in Syria should know that the scorched earth policy has never been a guarantee for stability or a safety valve ... It is rather a crack in the body of the nation and a deep wound which would take a long time to heal,” he said. Syria, the OIC chief said, has entered a dark and endless tunnel. “This is a direct result of ignoring the legitimate demands and aspirations of the people,” Ihsanoglu said. He expressed serious concern at the appalling conditions of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. “They are denied citizenship rights and are considered stateless people ... Their situation requires a firm decision,” he said. He informed the foreign ministers about Israel’s decision to usurp the rights of 120,000 Palestinian inhabitants of Al-Quds to live in their city. “This is an unprecedented development ... Moreover, there is an official inclination on the part of the occupation forces to enable the Jews to pray inside the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in Al-Quds history,” he said. Since the foreign ministers’ meeting was closed to journalists, not much could be ascertained about the deliberations. However, before heading into the meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi did speak to a couple of journalists on the issue of Syria’s possible expulsion from the OIC. He expressed a note of dissent and said: “This can be discussed in Djibouti where the OIC foreign ministers are going to meet in October ... This is my view ... Now it’s up to the OIC members to do what they see fit ... If I were to decide, I would postpone this decision (of Syria’s expulsion) until the meeting in Djibouti ... and let this important gathering be really what it is ... the summit of Islamic solidarity,” he said.