Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah demanded an end to the bloodshed in Syria on Monday and recalled his country’s ambassador from Damascus, in a rare case of one of the Arab world’s most powerful leaders intervening against another.

It was the sharpest criticism the oil giant — an absolute monarchy that bans political opposition — has directed against any Arab state since a wave of protests roiled the Middle East and toppled autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Saudi statement came with all the weight of the king’s personal authority, and follows similar statements since Saturday from the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

“What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia,” he said in a written statement read out on Al Arabiya satellite television.

Events in Syria had “nothing to do with religion, or values, or ethics,” the king said.

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