Erdoğan likens Syria situation to Libya

Erdoğan likens Syria situation to Libya

August 17, 2011, Wednesday/ 18:41:00

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan likened the situation in neighbouring Syria to Libya on Wednesday, keeping up the pressure on Damascus to end a violent crackdown on protests demanding the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.    

Turkish leaders, who once backed Assad, are sounding increasingly frustrated with the Syrian leader in the same way  they became frustrated with Muammar Gaddafi after trying to mediate in the Libyan civil war.    

"We have done our best on Libya, but haven't been able to generate any results. So it's an international issue now. Gaddafi could not meet our expectations, and the outcome was obvious," Erdoğan told reporters.     

"Now the same situation is going on in Syria. I've sent my foreign minister, and personally got in touch many times, the last of them three days ago on the phone. In spite of all this, civilians are still getting killed," he said.    

Erdoğan repeatedly contacted Gaddafi after the Libyan uprising began in February, calling for a ceasefire and for Gaddafi to allow a transition of power. In June, Erdoğan offered him an unspecified guarantee if he left Libya but received no answer. Since then Turkey has stepped up support for the Libyan rebels, increasing shipments of diesel to them.     

Syrian troops raided houses in a Sunni district of the besieged port of Latakia on Wednesday, residents said, arresting hundreds of people and taking them to a stadium after a four-day tank assault to crush protests against Assad.     

Rights organisations say at least 1,700 civilians have been killed by security forces since the protests erupted in March, while Syrian authorities say terrorist groups have killed 500 soldiers and police.    

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also called again on Wednesday for Syria to end military operations but he has ruled out foreign intervention in Turkey's southern neighbour.    

"The bloodshed has to stop, first and foremost. The military operations have to stop," Davutoğlu told a news conference with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh. "If the operations continue in Syria and the operations become a regional problem Turkey can naturally not remain indifferent."    

Asked about a news report that Turkey might create a buffer zone along its border with Syria, Davutoğlu said: "We're talking about a border that is 900 km long. We cannot talk about such a development right now," he said.    

Turkish officials denied on Tuesday the report that Ankara was planning a buffer zone to prevent an influx of refugees.    

With Assad defying international pressure and Syrian refugees crossing over the border into Turkey, media have previously said that Turkish political and military leaders were considering setting up a buffer zone inside Syria.      

Relations between Syria and Turkey, its imperial ruler until World War One, have often been tense. The two countries almost went to war in the 1990s when Turkish forces were battling Kurdish rebels operating from bases inside Syria.          

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