Turkey warns of civil war in Syria

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Turkey warned Friday that the conflict in Syria risks turning into a civil war, while France's chief diplomat said it was now too late for the Syrian regime to finally implement reforms.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pointed to the new attacks by army defectors, "therefore I say there is a risk of transforming into civil war. It is now the right time to stop this massacre, and therefore the Arab initiative is important," he said.

The Arab League has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a deadline to halt his "bloody repression" of anti-regime protests or risk sanctions.

"If it is not successful of course there is always a risk of civil war or high level tension in Syria," Davutoglu told AFP.

Up until now the Turkish diplomat said it has been "difficult to call it a civil war because in civil war there are two parties attacking each other.

"But in this case usually civilians are being attacked by the security forces."

The eight-month revolt in Syria has turned increasingly violent, with the Free Syrian Army, made up of army defectors, mounting a daring attack this week against a military intelligence base near the capital and the opposition becoming more militarised.

In Ankara, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that "it is now too late" for the Syrian regime, which failed to implement necessary reforms.

"We believe that the (Syrian) regime was not willing to implement a reform programme and now it is too late," Juppe said Friday after a meeting with the Turkish parliament's foreign relations committer head, Volkan Bozkir.

On Wednesday, France announced it has recalled its ambassador to Syria after its diplomatic missions there were attacked amid ongoing protests against the Assad regime.

Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has become increasingly outspoken in its criticism of Assad's regime since an anti-government uprising began in March.

Ankara has already announced a halt to joint oil exploration with Syria and has threatened to cut electricity exports there.

Juppe said both France and Turkey had an "overlapping approach" concerning the Syrian crisis.

Asked if Turkey sharing a 910-kilometer border with Syria should establish a buffer-zone to protect civilians, an idea floated by the Syrian opposition, Juppe said: "It is up to Turkey but we think that such a measure should be decided in accordance with the international community."

The UN Security Council is the only body empowered to impose binding measures, he added.

Speaking with AFP, Davutoglu also said that Turkey was prepared to help the opposition Syrian National Council to develop its relations within Syria and with the international community.

"At this stage it is important that the (opposition council) has access to the international community, the Syrian people, and that it has a solid base as an organisation of the Syrian people," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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