Turkey slams Assad over crackdown on opposition
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey no longer has confidence in the Syrian regime, its prime minister said Tuesday, warning Syrian President Bashar Assad that his brutal crackdown on opponents threatens to place him on a list of leaders who "feed on blood."
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan urged Assad to punish those responsible for attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria.
Addressing Assad disrespectfully by his first name, Erdogan said: "Bashar, you who have thousands of people in jail, must find the culprits and punish them."
Turkey evacuated the families of diplomats after Saturday's attacks on its embassy in Damascus and its consulates in the cities of Aleppo and Latakia, where assailants burned a Turkish flag.
"I again strongly condemn the attack on the Turkish flag and our missions," Erdogan said.
Supporters of Assad were trying to break into the Turkish missions to denounce an Arab League decision to suspend Syria's membership over its crackdown on the eight-month uprising. Turkey is not a member of the league, but welcomed the decision.
Turkey has long urged Syria to end the crackdown, which the U.N. estimates has killed more than 3,500 people since mid-March.
"No regime can survive by killing or jailing," Erdogan said. "No one can build a future over the blood of the oppressed."
Turkey's government had cultivated warm ties with Assad, but has grown highly critical of his government. Turkey has imposed an arms embargo on Syria and is expected to announce other sanctions.
It has also opened its doors to thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the crackdown. More than 7,700 refugees are being sheltered in several Turkish camps along the Syrian border.
Turkey has also allowed a Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council, to hold meetings in Turkey.
The council, a broad-based opposition umbrella group, was formed in Istanbul in September. No country has recognized it so far as a legal representative of the country and Syria has threatened tough measures against any country that does.