Turkey, US condemn Assad regime’s brutal violence in Syria

Saudi Foreign Minister Daud al-Faisal, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton condemned the killing of children and women in Hama, Syria (above). (Photo: AA)

June 07, 2012, Thursday/ 17:26:00

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have in a press conference condemned the Syrian government for its violence, accusing the embattled Assad regime of continuing a crackdown that has killed civilians. Davutoğlu said that no country could support the massacre going on in Syria, adding that the silence of countries who haven’t spoken out against the violations of human rights occurring in Syria is a sore point in the international community.

“From Turkey’s perspective, there is instability on the border between Turkey and Syria. The Assad regime does not create stability: On the contrary, Assad’s methods destroy the stability in the region,” Davutoğlu said. On Thursday, Syria denied as “absolutely baseless” claims by opposition groups about a new massacre in the central province of Hama in which government forces allegedly killed dozens of people, including women and children. The exact death toll and circumstances of the overnight killings on the outskirts of the village of Mazraat al-Qubair in Hama were impossible to confirm but the violence is bound to reinforce the growing belief that a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan is unraveling as the country spirals toward civil war.

The violence comes on the heels of a horrific massacre in late May in Houla, a cluster of villages in the central province of Homs, which left over 100 dead including many children and women gunned down in their homes. UN investigators blamed pro-government gunmen for at least some of the killings but the Syrian regime denied responsibility and blamed rebels for the deaths.

The Houla massacre triggered international outrage and a coordinated expulsion of Syrian diplomats from world capitals. The Syrian army prevented a team of UN monitors from entering Mazraat al-Qubair on Thursday. Sausan Ghosheh, a spokeswoman for the UN monitors, would not comment directly on whether entry to the village had been refused, saying: “We have dispatched a patrol which is trying to get access there.”

According to Davutoğlu, as the escalating tension in Syria leads toward civil war in the country, Turkey regards the necessity of joint and intensive efforts of the international community -- including UN Security Council permanent members, with Russia at the top of the list -- to stop the attacks on civilians. He noted that for this purpose Turkey would continue its diplomatic contacts with Russia.

“First, the international community should act unanimously to stop the oppression and atrocities,” Davutoğlu said, adding that there is a need to put the Annan plan on a timetable.

Commenting on the ad hoc meeting of world leaders who came together on Wednesday evening in İstanbul, Davutoğlu said that the meeting was to urgently discuss the escalating tension in Syria.

“Turkey will continue its inclusive activities to strengthen the opposition in Syria,” he said, reiterating that the international community should work to fight the Assad regime, otherwise humanity will suffer and the international community will lose its credibility just as it did after keeping its silence during the Bosnian tragedy.

Ministers and high-level envoys from the European Union and 15 other countries agreed on Wednesday at a meeting on Syria to convene a “coordination group” to provide support to the Syrian opposition, host country Turkey said in a statement. Representatives at the meeting in İstanbul attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ministers and high-level envoys from Turkey and European and Arab states discussed “additional steps” including coordination on an “effective and credible transition process” to lead to a “democratic, post-Assad Syria.” The countries agreed to send a representative to İstanbul for June 15-16 to attend the coordination meeting of all the Syrian opposition groups seeking an end to the rule of President Assad.

Asked by reporters about how Assad might give up his position and further the transition in Syria, Clinton said there are a number of examples in the region, one of which is the transition in Yemen. According to Clinton, “It took frankly more than a year, it took a lot of international efforts” to get the president to give up power.

Providing the first US reaction to reports of what Syrian opposition groups were describing on Wednesday as a new massacre, Clinton said, “We’re disgusted by what we see happening.”

“The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable,” she said. “Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or democratic until Assad goes.”

Clinton acknowledged that the US and its partners haven’t been successful yet in bringing international action to end the violence, but she urged nations to remain united.

“We have to do more to help organize and focus the opposition,” she said, calling on the anti-Assad forces to do more themselves to coalesce around the idea of a democratic, representative and inclusive post-Assad future.

She also said she was sending a senior envoy to Moscow on Thursday for talks with the Russian government, and she’ll meet with Annan on Friday.

On the issue of a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis failing, and whether the international community including Turkey will resort to military intervention, Davutoğlu said that the primary solution is diplomacy. “That’s why for the last 15 years the use of diplomatic methods have been at a peak.”

Noting the difficult situation of the Syrian people, Davutoğlu said that civilians in Syria do not want anything more than their natural rights of freedom as people from the US, Turkey and other states possess.

Principles in diplomacy are very important so that no compromises are made, said Davutoğlu. “Our primary concern is to solve the Syrian crisis in a diplomatic way, and diplomatic ways have not been exhausted. However, if they are stuck in a deadlock, given the violation of Turkish borders and national security, all scenarios and alternatives will be considered,” said Davutoğlu before warning press members to not consider his statements a call for military intervention.

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