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'We do not want to see another Hama massacre,' says Turkish PM

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 5/2/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Turkey has accelerated its preparations to deal with a large potential influx of Syrian refugees as it continues issuing warnings to the Syrian administration.

Turkey has accelerated its preparations to deal with a large potential influx of Syrian refugees as it continues warning the Syrian administration to abstain from actions that could lead to the division of the country.

“He says, ‘I will do it.’ But I am having a hard time understanding if he is being prevented from doing it or if he is hesitating,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said late Sunday in a television interview, commenting on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s failure to act immediately to make reforms.

“We do not want to see another Hama massacre,” Erdoğan said, referring to a deadly crackdown in the Syrian town of Hama in 1982 against a revolt by a Sunni community protesting the regime. Erdoğan warned al-Assad it would be “very difficult for Syria to deal with the consequences if such a tragedy repeats itself.”

The Turkish prime minister also said Syria should avoid actions that could lead to the division of the country.

Turkey shares a long border with Syria and fears the chaos in its southern neighbor could spark a refugee crisis on the borders. Erdoğan said, however, that Turkey would not close its doors to Syrians and was making sure it would be prepared if more refugees arrive.

Separately, President Abdullah Gül said Turkey is “taking measures for the worst-case scenario in regards to recent developments in Syria.”

Turkey’s president reaffirmed the country’s efforts to convince Syria to make reforms and carry out a “transition process in line with its people’s legitimate demands.”

Ankara also voiced the need for a multiparty system for Syria as an outcome of upcoming elections.

“A few days ago, nearly 300 Syrian people crossed the border and took shelter in Turkey. They have been accommodated in several places,” Gül said. “We hope reforms will be made and a transition completed in Syria without any more bloodshed. We also hope a multiparty and democratic system will be established in Syria soon.”

Turkey has already set up a small camp in the southern Hatay province for the 263 Syrians who fled their country Friday.

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