Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called on embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down for the sake of his own people and the region, reminding him of the tragic end of Adolf Hitler and ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Erdoğan said during his justice and Development Party's (AK Party) parliamentary meeting that “for the welfare of your own people and the region, just leave that seat.”
“Assad is showing up and saying he would fight to the death. For God's Sake, against whom will you fight? Fighting against your own people is not heroism, but cowardice. If you want to see someone who has fought until death against his own people, just look at Nazi Germany, just look at Hitler, at [Benito] Mussolini, at Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania,” he said. “If you cannot draw any lessons from them, then look at the Libyan leader who was killed just 32 days ago in a manner none of us would wish for and who used the same expression you used.”
The prime minister referred to Assad's remarks over the weekend, when the Syrian leader defiantly vowed to fight and die if needed as an Arab League deadline for his government to stop its lethal crackdown on protesters expired with 20 more people killed.
Condemning Monday's attack on three buses carrying returning Turkish pilgrims to Turkey passing through Syria, Erdoğan called on Assad to find the perpetrators of the attack as well as those responsible for earlier attacks on Turkish missions in Syria. Erdoğan has grown increasingly critical of the Syrian regime and said last week that the world must urgently “hear the screams” of Syria and do something to stop the bloodshed.
Turkey has allowed Syrian refugees and military defectors to take refuge on its soil and Syria's political opposition has used Turkey as a place to meet and organize. Assad's deepening isolation and the growing calls for his ouster are a severe blow to a family dynasty that has ruled Syria for four decades and any change to the leadership could transform some of the most enduring alliances in the Middle East and beyond.
Tensions between the Syrian administration and Turkey have once again run high after three buses carrying Turkish pilgrims to Turkey from Saudi Arabia, where they had gone to perform the Islamic pilgrimage, were attacked at a check point in Syria on Monday. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the attack occurred near the central city of Homs, where Syrian activists reported at least nine people killed by security forces on Sunday. The statement said two Turkish citizens were injured in the attack.