ISLAMABAD, Aug 9: Ending months of ambiguity over the crisis in Syria, Pakistan joined the group of countries supporting the Syrian government on Thursday and warned against foreign interference and military intervention in the 17-month-old conflict.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was one of the three foreign ministers who attended an international consultative meeting on the Syrian crisis hosted by Iran.

“It is our considered view that any outside intervention would further complicate an already very complex situation. It must be avoided,” Ms Khar said at the conference attended by about 25 countries, most of whom were represented at ambassadorial level.

She urged the international community to respect Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Besides Pakistan, representatives from Russia, China, Belarus, Mauritania, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Benin, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Oman, Venezuela, Tajikistan, India, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Sudan, Jordan, Tunisia and Palestine attended the conference.

Western countries backing rebels had dismissed the Tehran meeting as an attempt to divert world attention from the bloody events in Syria where pro-government troops are fighting pitched battles against rebel forces in Aleppo and other parts of the war-torn country. The West has accused Iran of broadening support for embattled President Bashar al-Assad by holding the conference.

“Syria needs political space to find a peaceful solution and reestablish its societal equilibrium by engaging all sides. Syria must forge its own destiny in accordance with the aspirations of its people,” Ms Khar said.

The strong position taken by Islamabad on Syria is likely to annoy its allies US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who along with Qatar and Israel have been supporting rebels to bring down President Assad.

President Asif Ali Zardari will be attending an extra-ordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Conference being hosted by Saudi Arabia next week that is expected to focus on Syria.

Ms Khar warned against divisiveness within Ummah on the issue of Syria and said: “Prolonged instability in Syria would have serious consequences for the region, Muslim Ummah and, in fact, for the entire world. As Syria bleeds, we must eschew the temptation of taking sides. It is time to find commonly agreed solutions to stop the bloodbath in Syria.”

Pakistan had earlier abstained from vote on an anti-Syria resolution in the United Nations Security Council.

The foreign minister used the Tehran meeting to remind the world that the conflict in Syria was entering a dangerous phase with Al Qaeda trying to benefit from the instability there.

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