Jordan's king calls on Syria's Assad to step down


King Abdullah's comments came in an exclusive BBC interview

Jordan's king has become the first Arab leader to openly say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should stand down.

King Abdullah told the BBC that if he were in Mr Assad's position, he would make sure "whoever comes behind me has the ability to change the status quo".

He urged President Assad to begin talks on an orderly transition of power.

Many Arab leaders have condemned the crackdown on months of protests in Syria. Dozens of deaths are reported in the latest unrest on Monday.

Both the Saudi and Qatari ambassadors left Damascus in protest at the repression. The Arab League voted on Saturday to suspend Syria's membership.

Start Quote

If Bashar has the interest of his country [at heart] he would step down”

End Quote King Abdullah

However King Abdullah went further than other Arab leaders in his exclusive interview with BBC World News television.

"If Bashar has the interest of his country [at heart] he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life," he said.

"That's the only way I would see it work and I don't think people are asking that question," he added.

King Abdullah warned there would be "more of the same" if whoever replaced President Assad did not change the status quo.



King Abdullah's remarks, coupled with the Arab League's decision to suspend Damascus, mark a turning point in the Arab world's approach to Syria.

But Jordan's monarch was emphatic that President Assad stepping down was not enough. His call to the Syrian leader was about changing a "system". He admitted that no-one was clear how to do that, and the Syrian regime still believed it was "in a fairly comfortable position".

King Abdullah, like many others, also emphasised there was great concern about "life after Bashar". He warned that any outside intervention in Syria would open "Pandora's box".

The relationship between two Arab leaders, seen as a new generation when they took over from their fathers, has been under growing strain. But King Abdullah said he still believed the Syrian leader had "reform in his blood". He had reached out to him earlier this year, even if, as he admitted, Jordan was not "by any means... a perfect story".

Jordan, which borders Syria, has been increasingly critical of the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Many Western powers have urged President Assad to stand down.

Both the EU and the US have said he has lost legitimacy but have ruled out military intervention.

The European Union on Monday tightened sanctions on Syria.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels added 18 Syrian officials to a list of people affected by a travel ban and asset freeze.

The ministers also approved moves to prevent Syria getting funds from the European Investment Bank.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he hoped the UN would finally impose its own sanctions on Syria.

Russia and China last month vetoed a Western-sponsored resolution condemning Damascus.

Earlier on Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem reacted defiantly to the Arab League's suspension. He said the decision was illegal and vowed to overcome "conspiracies" against Damascus.

Growing foreign pressure

  • 10 June: Turkish PM condemns the "savagery" of the response to the unrest
  • 19 July: Qatar closes its embassy in Damascus after an attack by Assad loyalists
  • 8 August: Saudi Arabia condemns crackdown and recalls its envoy in Damascus
  • 10 August: US imposes new sanctions on Syrian telecom companies and banks
  • 18 August: US, UK, Germany and France call on President Assad to step down; US imposes full ban on oil imports
  • 12 November: Arab League suspends Syria from the organisation
  • 14 November: Jordanian king openly urges Mr Assad to go; EU tightens sanctions

The Arab League is set to hold another meeting to discuss Syria on Wednesday.

Russia on Monday condemned the suspension. "Someone really does not want the Syrians to agree among themselves," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow.

In the latest violence, the Local Co-ordination Committees - a network of opponents to President Assad's rule - said 40 people had been killed on Monday, including 20 in the restive southern province of Deraa.

There are also reports that about 20 members of the security forces were killed in a clash with defectors from the Syrian army.

Such claims are impossible to verify as the Syrian government has severely restricted access for foreign journalists.

The UN says more than 3,500 people have died since the start of the protests in March while the Syrian authorities blame the violence on terrorists.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.


    I don't see Israel killing thousands of people a day then trying to cover it up! Though I do see Israel defending themselves against terrorism and for that they get my support!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    My fear is that an ousted King Assad might return to the UK to practise as an ophthalmologist, perhaps working for our NHS. This is after all, where he trained. I hope that a system is in place to prevent that from happening!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    everything is is in trouble.....i wish 2012 is not the last year for humankind....fights should not occur...anywhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    By the way Shiites, being a minority in the Muslim world, have often historically been persecuted, oppressed and in many cases even killed, simply for not being Sunni!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Syria, autocratic and not very nice. That's for sure.

    However.....these opposition types are hardly liberal and Democratic. From what I understand, the opposition are in the main hard line islamists. As in Libya, which nobody seems to say is Democratic yet, I am of the opinion "let them get on with it". Not our business and nit affecting our national interests.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


    "Russia and China last month vetoed a Western-sponsored resolution condemning Damascus."
    Says it all! Why we are continuing to trade with these countries?
    Utterly nauseating!

    How many times has the US used its veto for Israel? Surely that is just as nauseating!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    None of the Arab dictators that are calling for Assad to go care about the plight of the Syrian people as they persecute and opprees their own peoples in their own countries. Those Arab despots, I feel, might be much more conserned about the fact that he's not a Sunni Muslim (he's Alawite) and that he's allied to another non-Sunni power, Shiite Iran. They don't care about freedom or democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The Arab League are to democracy what King Herod was to childminding!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    @12 - The only country to have ever deployed a nuclear weapon in war is the United states....TWICE. Amazing that they feel in a position to preach about it. If I was North Korea or Iran or anyone else with limited military capabilities, I would certainly want a nuclear option as a deterrent against the belligerence, double-standards and international lawlessness of US and Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Whilst I do not doubt there has been bloodshed, the number of fatalities quoted by the UN are based on the numbers provided to them by Human Rights Watch, who receive their information from the opposition.

    It's clearly in the interests of the opposition to bloat these figures...and it could be said that it's in the interests of the West to take them on face value to facilitate military action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The comments are to be welcomed, if they bear out. I do think it's important to recognize that, while his own realm and others like Morocco need to implement changes and have been involved in repression, there's a difference between what is happening in those countries than ones like Syria; the scale of repression and death is hugely different. There's still hope for Jordan as things stand yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    "Russia and China last month vetoed a Western-sponsored resolution condemning Damascus."

    Says it all! Why we are continuing to trade with these countries?

    Utterly nauseating!

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    What hypocrisy!Abdullah IS in Assad's shoes.This is a complete charade.NONE of the Arab League tyrants are interested in the well-being of Syrian people;they're interested in maintaining their own positions of privilege while projecting the correct image to the west even though it is just an image with no substance.Democracy and freedom are the last things that they want.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I'm sure we should wait from some verifiable information that doesn't come from the Islamists (currently rubbing their hands in the hope they're going to get their hands on yet another country) before wading in.

    Ahmadinejad's quite open about his plans for his new nuclear arsenal - maybe we should do something about that too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The dictator of Jordan preaches to the dictator of Syria, but then the King is a buddy of the West & defended by Israel. He is ok. It's only few weeks ago they had demonstrations in Jordan against his autocratic regime, & he used all forceful methods to quell the situation. It rulers like him & that traitor ruling Qatar are giving Arabs a bad name. Are rewarded with successful World cup bids

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Pot. Kettle. Black

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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