Erdoğan chief adviser slams Russia for backing Syria

January 31, 2012, Tuesday/ 16:17:00/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH WIRES

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's chief adviser has criticized Russia for its position on Syria, stressing that Russia is alienating itself from the Muslim world.

The UN Security Council was to meet on Tuesday to discuss the draft, backed by Western and some Arab powers. But Russia would likely veto any punitive action.

Russia has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's strongest backers as he tries to crush an uprising that began nearly 11 months ago. In October, Moscow vetoed the first council attempt to condemn Syria's crackdown and has shown little sign of budging in its opposition.

“Russia is turning the Arab and Muslim world against itself in the name of protecting its interests in Syria,” İbrahim Kalın said on his Twitter feed on Tuesday.

Syria has been Moscow's firmest foothold in the Middle East, paying cash for Russian weapons and hosting a naval maintenance facility on its Mediterranean coast that is Russia's only military base outside the former Soviet Union.

Russia fears the new measure could open the door to eventual military intervention, the way an Arab-backed UN resolution provided the mandate for NATO airstrikes in Libya.

Kalın said Russia's position on Syria is “a bad choice” in his view. Kalın's remarks regarding Russia's staunch position on Syria are also the first official Turkish reaction to its northern neighbor with whom it enjoys good political and economic relations. The trade volume of the two countries exceeds $40 billion, comprising mainly energy imports by Turkey.

The draft resolution on Syria demands that Assad halt the crackdown and implement an Arab peace plan that calls for him to hand over power to his vice president and allow creation of a unity government to pave the way for elections. It also rules out the use of foreign forces in the country.

If Assad fails to comply within 15 days, the council would consider "further measures," a reference to a possible move to impose economic or other sanctions.

The UN estimates that more than 5,400 people have been killed in the Syrian government crackdown. The bloodshed spiked Monday as regime forces retook control of the eastern suburbs of Damascus after rebel soldiers briefly captured them.

The death toll from Monday's offensive was around 100 people, making it one among the bloodiest days since the uprising began in March, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group.

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