Syria at 'point of no return': Turkish president

23rd November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Syria has reached a "point of no return" in the regime's crackdown on opposition demonstrators, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Wednesday during his state visit to Britain.

"Unfortunately Syria has come to a point of no return," Gul said in a speech in London, adding that the whole region could be dragged into "turmoil and bloodshed" by the crisis.

"The Baath regime continues to use oppression and violence on its own people," Gul said, and warned: "Violence breeds violence."

His comments come after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go, branding him a coward and warning he risked the same fate of dictators who met bloody deaths.

Gul told an audience in London that the fate of Syria, where the risk of civil war is looming, was "important for the entire region, since the country sits on top of sectarian fault lines".

"In fact, not only for Syria, but for the entire region we have a responsibility to defend the territorial integrity and political unity of the countries at all cost," he added.

"New and old divisions between and within the countries of the region should not be allowed to take root."

Gul warned: "Defining this democratic struggle along the sectarian, religious and ethnic lines would drag the whole region into turmoil and bloodshed."

The United Nations says more than 3,500 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the protests first broke out in Syria in March.

On Tuesday, Erdogan insisted Turkey had no intention of interfering in Syria's domestic affairs but said Ankara could not "remain indifferent" to events in a country with which Turkey shares a 910-kilometre (565-mile) border.

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.

Tensions worsened further on Monday when two busloads of Turkish pilgrims travelling through Syria on their way back from the hajj in Mecca were attacked by Syrian gunmen.

Gul made the speech to a foreign policy think-tank on the second day of his state visit to Britain, the first by a Turkish president since 1988.

© 2011 AFP

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