Assad has reached a 'dead end': Turkish president
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has reached a "dead end" but only internal forces can bring about change, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Monday, in an interview with the Guardian.
Speaking on the eve of a three-day state visit to Britain, Gul warned that Assad's back-tracking on reforms agreed by the Arab League had made international negotiation impossible.
"It's quite too late for that sort of thing now," he told the British newspaper. "He seems to have opted for a different route. And frankly we do not have any more trust in him.
"Syria is now at a dead end, so change is inevitable," Gul said in comments published on the paper's website. "But we don't believe the right way to create change is through external intervention. The people must make that change."
Gul urged former ally Assad to relinquish power without a struggle, adding that "everything must be done" to prevent a civil war.
However, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Monday said foreign intervention could not be ruled out completely over Assad's refusal to end the bloody crackdown on protesters.
"You can remain in power with tanks and cannons only up to a certain point. The day will come when you'll also leave," Erdogan told a meeting in Istanbul.
"Someone shows up and says 'I'll fight and die.' Against whom will you fight? Will you fight against your Muslim brothers you rule in your country?" Erdogan asked.
The prime minister was referring to an interview with Assad published in London's Sunday Times in which the Syrian leader vowed to fight and die if faced with foreign intervention.
Erdogan's comments came after activists said Monday that at least 12 people were killed in raids by Syrian security forces.
The latest violence came as two people were reported wounded when buses carrying Turkish pilgrims on their way home from Mecca came under gunfire near the flashpoint city of Homs in central Syria.
Turkey has become increasingly vocal in its criticism of Assad after its diplomatic missions came under attack by pro-government demonstrators in several Syrian cities earlier this month.
Gul also also cautioned against military strikes on Iran despite the publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency's hardest-hitting assessment yet about its suspected nuclear weapons drive.
The president said that Iran and the west needed to engage in "frank and transparent" dialogue in order to avert conflict.
Gul's state visit to Britain, the first by a Turkish president for 23 years, is aimed at seeking support in its bid to join the EU.
"I will underline the importance of England's continued support in making sure negotiations are not blocked by artificial political obstacles," Gul told journalists in Turkey before flying off to London on Sunday.
During his visit, Gul will meet British Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband, as well as several members of the royal family.
© 2011 AFP