In a reference to the departure of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, addressing representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Turkey, said the Syrian people are now closer to victory than ever. He added that if the Syrian president heeded Ankara's advice on political reforms and how to handle the uprising, Syria wouldn't be in the situation it is in today.
International pressure on Assad has escalated dramatically in the last week, alongside an opposition offensive in the two biggest cities and a bomb attack that killed four members of his inner circle in Damascus. Defying Arab foreign ministers who on Sunday offered Assad a “safe exit” if he stepped down, the Syrian leader launched a fierce counter-offensives, reflecting his determination to keep power as a 16-month uprising enters its most violent phase.
Assad's forces have also lost ground outside of city centers, ceding control of four border posts on the Turkish and Iraqi borders.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 1,261 people had been killed across Syria since last Sunday, when the fighting escalated in Damascus, including 299 of Assad's forces. This made it by far the bloodiest week in an uprising that has claimed the lives of 18,000 people. A total of 140 people were killed on Sunday, including 38 soldiers, the observatory said.
Erdoğan also told diplomats that Turkey has no intention of interfering in the domestic affairs of both neighboring countries, but that it also cannot remain silent in the face of killings in its southern neighbor. He added that the national structure, faith, sect and economic, social and political views of countries in Turkey's vicinity are not a factor for Turkey when Ankara makes foreign policy decisions.
He reiterated that Turkey has advised the Syrian government in a friendly manner when uprisings started to rock countries in North Africa, but that Syria didn't heed Turkish recommendations. Erdoğan also said the Syrian government failed to honor its promise to the international community and that if Assad's regime had heeded Turkey's advice, Syria would not be in the situation it is in today.
Erdoğan also touched on inter-communal violence in Myanmar, saying people and humanity are being massacred. He urged the United Nations to do what it needs to do to stop the bloody conflict there.