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Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan talks with Syria's Assad

ANKARA-Hürriyet Daily News | 3/27/2011 12:00:00 AM | SEVİL KÜÇÜKKOŞUM

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday to express his support for the leader of Turkey’s neighbor.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday to express his support for the leader of Turkey’s neighbor and warn him of the image of security officials using force against the Syrian people.

The Syrian president reassured Erdoğan of his decision to make reforms; however, he complained that there were circles whose aim was to stir up trouble rather than protest for reforms, Prime Ministry officials told Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review on Sunday.

Welcoming Assad’s decision to institute reforms, Erdoğan urged his Syrian counterpart to implement social and economic reforms posthaste. People should practice concrete reforms as soon as possible, Erdoğan told Assad.

The Turkish prime minister drew attention to the pictures of Syrian security officials’ intervention in protests and warned against the confrontational image of police and people, officials said.

Prime Ministry officials recalled that Erdoğan urged Assad to implement urgent reforms during his visit to Aleppo in February. Erdoğan said last week he had spoken to Assad during his last visit to Syria about the upheaval in the Arab world and had urged him to find a more democratic path.

The telephone call, a gesture to anti-government protesters in Syria, came after the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement on Friday urging the Syrian administration to conduct reform as soon as possible in the face of growing unrest.

"We welcome the statements of Syrian officials on starting work for reform on social and economic issues to meet the Syrian people's legitimate demands and expectations," the statement said. It called for the completion of necessary work immediately and the implementation of decisions without losing time.

Turkey was ready to contribute to the reform process, the statement said. Syria has not asked for support over their reform process, Prime Ministry officials said.

The demonstrations began this month in Damascus but have been largely contained in the capital. Yet on Friday, protests erupted in other Syrian cities in support of protests in the city of Daraa.

Relations between Turkey and Syria have improved markedly since the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power. Turkey is boosting its relationships with its Arab-Muslim neighbors, among whom Syria is clearly a key state.

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