CAIRO / DAMASCUS
Turkish President Gül (R) meets with his Iranian and Egyptian counterparts, Ahmedinejad (L) and Morsi (C), in Cairo on the sidelines of a Islamic summit. AA photo
Turkey, together with Egypt and Iran, has started a joint effort to end the 22-month-long conflict in Syria, Turkish President Abdullah Gül has said at a press conference alongside his Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed Morsi, in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
Gül discussed the situation in Syria with Morsi and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Feb. 6, in a triple-headed meeting also attended by the foreign ministers of the three countries, on the sidelines of the 12th Summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The presidents reportedly exchanged views on the crisis during the one-hour-long meeting, agreeing that the massacres and bloodshed should end immediately, according to Fars News Agency.
Gül emphasized that Syria was the number one priority during their meetings, adding that a number of decisions had been taken on Feb. 6.
“We spoke very openly about everything. We have started works to try to avoid Syria consuming itself and our foreign ministers are working on the details. We hope we'll be able to contribute to stopping the blood in Syria,” said Gül during the press conference. “When we watch what’s happening in Syria, it feels like our own homes are burning, collapsing, and our people are dying. This is how the Syria issue tears our hearts apart.”
Morsi also said the countries' foreign ministers were working jointly transforming the general framework agreed during the meeting into principles and measures so as to reach a ceasefire between the conflicting parties in Syria “as soon as possible.” “The most important point now is to end the bloodshed. There must be a ceasefire immediately - this is a key point and perhaps it could happen soon, God willing,” he said, adding that a framework would be made public “in the coming days."
During the press conference, Gül also praised Egypt, saying that the revolution that led to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak had strengthened the ties between the two countries. “If Egypt, which we see as the flagship of the Arab world, realizes democracy with all of its traditions and institutions, that will have a huge effect not only on Egypt itself, but for the whole Arab and Muslim world. I believe that Egypt will have a lot of success on this road,” he said.‘Al-Assad should step down to prevent destruction’
Earlier, Gül called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down to stop the killing of his own people, during a speech at the OIC summit. “The current regime in Syria should recognize the reality now. It should resign and prevent the Syrian people from being destroyed,” he said.
“The situation in Syria is gradually getting more tragic and the country is exhausting itself in front of the world’s eyes. Stability and security can only be re-established if the regime ends all sort of violence and the legitimate demands of the Syrian people are fulfilled. We thank the Syrian National Coalition [SNC] in this matter for their hospitality and strong support. What has to be done in the current situation is to end the ongoing violence in the country at once and to launch a transition period towards democracy,” Gül added. Release of detainees is breaking point
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatip demanded the release of all women being held in Syrian prisons by Feb. 10, in order to open talks with the regime.
“According to this demand that the women be released, if there is one single woman still in prison in Syria on Feb. 10, I consider that the regime has rejected my initiative,” al-Khatib told BBC Arabic.
The Syrian National Council, the main component of the Coalition, has rejected the possibility of any talks, saying it is committed to ousting al-Assad’s regime, rejecting dialogue with it, and protecting the revolution.
But al-Khatib appealed for the opposition to “declare our willingness to negotiate” the regime’s departure.
Al-Khatib’s offer, which came last week, sparked criticism from opposition activists who say the regime has killed too many people to play a role in the conflict’s solution. The government has so far ignored al-Khatib’s offer for talks.
In a related development, the foreign minister of Iran
said Feb. 6 that he thought the Syrian government was ready to negotiate with the opposition and that the two sides would have to sit together for talks.
“I think that the Syrian government is ready to negotiate with the opposition,” Ali Akbar Salehi said.