Syria at 'point of no return': Turkish president

23rd November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Syria has reached a "point of no return" as the regime steps up violence against pro-democracy demonstrators, Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately Syria has come to a point of no return," Gul said in a speech in Britain during a state visit, 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. Violence breeds violence," Gul warned.

The United Nations says more than 3,500 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the Syrian regime's crackdown on the protests which first broke out in March.

Gul's 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 as 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".

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

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

He also called on the West to offer assistance to Middle Eastern countries where authoritarian regimes have been overthrown by the Arab Spring.

Before the revolts, many Western nations "preferred to have friendly but undemocratic regimes in power and this was abused by the political elites for their own survival."

"It is now high time for the West to erase the bitter memories of the past and offer sincere and substantial assistance to the countries in transition," Gul urged.

He also urged Israel to "adapt to the new political climate in the region" because the Jewish state's "wellbeing will depend on an honourable peace with the Arabs."

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

© 2011 AFP

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