Last updated: 7 February, 2012

Turkey to launch new international initiative on Syria

Turkey’s prime minister announced Tuesday a new initiative with regional players to halt the violence in Syria, saying the veto of a UN resolution had given President Bashar al-Assad a “licence to kill”.

Speaking in the Turkish parliament, Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Russia and China’s torpedoing at the weekend of a resolution backed by the West and the Arab League as a “fiasco” and said Assad had reached the end of the line.

“We will start a new initiative with those countries who stand by the Syrian people, not the regime,” he said.

“We are working on this initiative,” Erdogan told lawmakers, adding that his government would use all diplomatic means to draw the world’s attention to the Syrian crisis.

“We cannot remain silent on what is happening in Syria and we cannot turn our backs on the Syrian people,” Erdogan said.

Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council, on Saturday blocked a resolution denouncing Syria for its deadly crackdown on protests. The move drew widespread condemnation, with the US describing it as a “travesty”.

Erdogan, once a close friend and ally of Assad, said that the outcome had placed a “licence to kill in the hands of the tyrant”.

“The process that unfolded at the United Nations is a fiasco for the civilised world,” said Erdogan.

The veto power should be used responsibly without “giving the green light to death”, the prime minister added.

Without specifically mentioning China or Russia, Erdogan said that countries who used Syria as a pawn in a larger power struggle would find themselves “spattered in blood”.

Turkey, which has a a 910-kilometre border (560 mile) with northern Syria, has been at the forefront of international criticism against Damascus since an uprising began last March and has become a haven for opposition activists.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is due to fly to the United States on Wednesday and meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for further discussions on Syria, diplomatic sources told AFP.

Turkey’s European Union affairs minister also visited EU headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday where he urged the international community to work together to end what he called the “massacre” in Syria.

“Turkey is doing the right thing because innocent people are being killed left and right,” Egemen Bagis told a news conference after talks with European Union Parliament president Martin Schulz.

“We all have a responsibility in putting an end to this massacre,” he said, as the Assad regime’s tanks pounded the city of Homs for a fourth straight day.

Bagis added that the international community “has to work together to convince the leadership in Syria to do the necessary reforms so that … all people of Syria live in prosperity and in freedom that they deserve.”

Rights group say more than 6,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of the uprising in mid-March.