Turkey joins US, EU in calls to Syria to stop killings
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 4/24/2011 12:00:00 AM |
More than a hundred reported deaths among protesters demonstrating against the regime in Syria over the weekend draw sharp responses from Turkey, the US, the EU and other world powers. Turkey’s ruling AKP calls for maximum restraint, but the main opposition CHP says it’s not enough, a diplomatic initiative should be launched
Turkey has joined world powers, the United States and the European Union in calling on the Syrian leadership to stop using excessive force against its own people demanding more rights, after more than 120 people were reportedly killed over the weekend.
“Turkey appeals [to the authorities] to act with maximum restraint, refrain from excessive use of force and chose the appropriate means of response to mass demonstrations,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement released late Saturday. However, this reaction was evaluated as insufficient by the main opposition party, which called on the government to launch a diplomatic action to prevent anymore killing.
Meanwhile, security forces raided homes across Syria, arresting regime opponents, as funerals were held Sunday for people killed in a bloody crackdown on protests, activists said. Students called for a strike and two members of parliament resigned after at least 13 mourners were shot dead Saturday when Syrians swarmed the streets to bury scores of demonstrators killed in protests the previous day. Witnesses and activists said several people were also rounded up in and around Damascus but could not give exact numbers.
More than 300 people have been killed – including more than 120 on Friday and Saturday – since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime began five weeks ago, according to rights groups. Friday was the deadliest day since 112 were killed when the uprising began, rights groups said.
Voicing deep concern over bloody unrest in neighboring Syria, Turkey called on Damascus to continue its reform process with determination, to complete it as quickly as possible and to put into practice without wasting time.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held phone conversations with Assad in recent weeks to advise him to heed the demands of his people and sent him envoys to convey the message that Ankara will stand by him if he continues in the reform process. The steps Bashar has taken so far are not seen as sufficient in Ankara as well, however, due to close ties between Assad and Erdoğan, observers claim, the Turkish government cannot voice its opposition louder than this.
“We are calling on the Justice and Development Party [AKP] government to end the wait-and-see policy and to launch diplomatic initiatives to the Syrian government,” Osman Korutürk, deputy leader of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, said in a written statement Sunday.
Describing the situation in Syria as “very critical,” Korutürk called on the Syrian administration to stop using force against civilians and to heed the demands of its people.
[HH] Obama condemns Assad
One of the strongest statements on Syria came from U.S. President Barrack Obama, who condemned the Syrian government for using force against demonstrators.
“Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies,” read Obama’s statement. Calling on Assad to change course now and heed the calls of his own people, Obama said:
“We strongly oppose the Syrian government’s treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued destabilizing behavior more generally, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups. The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Syria and around the world.”
[HH] EU: Intolerable
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Saturday said the brutal Syrian crackdown was “intolerable” and urged Damascus to launch “profound political reforms.”
“The killings are appalling and intolerable. All those responsible for these crimes must be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions,” she said in a statement.
A United Nations spokesman said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "condemns the ongoing violence against peaceful demonstrators in Syria ... (and) calls for it to stop immediately."
Ban said Assad's government must "respect international human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the freedom of the press."
He also repeated his demand for an "independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings."
Assad had issued decrees Thursday scrapping decades of emergency rule, abolishing the state security court and allowing citizens to hold peaceful demonstrations. Far from satisfying the people’s demands, the steps could not soothe the tension on the streets in several cities in Syria.
A coalition of 10 Syrian human rights groups said Sunday that authorities have detained a leading activist, Daniel Saoud, who heads the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, Freedoms and Human Rights, one of the most prominent watchdog groups in Syria.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch also urged the United States and European Union to impose sanctions against Syrian officials accused of using force against demonstrators challenging the authoritarian rule of President Assad.