Turkish PM to reach out to US on Syria chemical usage
ANKARA / ŞANLIURFA
Smoke rises after shelling on al-Turkman mountains in the Latakia province, western Syria on April 25, 2013. The Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said. The White House has also said that Syria had likely used chemical weapons against rebel forces on a "small scale." Prime Minister Erdoğan says he will discuss the usage of chemical weapons with US President Obama. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA
The Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, adding that he would discuss the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama during his upcoming visit to Washington. “We will discuss the use of chemical weapons during the meeting with President Obama,” Erdoğan told Japanese daily Nikkei.
Erdoğan also discussed the latest developments in Syria with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande over the phone late May 2, the office of the prime minister has said.
Meanwhile, a Turkish police officer was killed and 11 others were injured in a clash between Syrians who wanted to cross the border and security forces in the southeastern district of Akçakale.
“Some 1,000 Syrians wanted to cross the Akçakale border gate without passports, but security forces would not allow them to do so. When they were sent back, they started to throw stones and started a fire in our offices at the buffer zone, but we managed to extinguish it,” Akçakale Mayor Abdulhakim Ayhan said, adding that the group had been dispersed after the incident.
“We pulled out, thinking the incident was over but then they started to fire bullets. Now it is calm but there is unease in the district.”
The group believed to be smugglers clashed with the Turkish police at the buffer-zone, and the bullets fired by the Syrians ricocheted into the Turkish side, a Turkish official said on condition of anonymity.
The assailants used long-barreled rifles, according to officials. Three policemen, five soldiers and four civilians were wounded, and security was beefed up after the incident. One police officer, who was critically wounded, died later.
Erdoğan will meet with Obama in Washington on May 16. Obama said April 30 there was evidence that chemical weapons had been used during Syria’s two-year conflict, but that it was not yet known how the chemical weapons were used, when they were used and who used them.
‘Opposition dominates on land’
The usage of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “game-changer” for the entire international community, not just the United States, the president said, bolstering the argument that use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line” for Washington.
“We are taking the necessary precautions as we have received unconfirmed information on the use of chemical weapons,” Reyhanlı Mayor Hüseyin Şanverdi told Reuters.
“So far I have not received confirmation from medical institutions but there is a possibility that the weapons were used and we have to act with caution in case,” he said.
Erdoğan also assessed the situation on the ground. “The opposition dominates on land, but al-Assad uses chemical weapons, war planes and helicopters. The only field the regime is superior in is in air-backed operations. The regime is living its final moments, but we don’t know when it will topple. This is a situation that will happen suddenly,” the prime minister said.
Fighting in Syria, now entering its third year, has intensified in the last month with government forces attempting to roll back rebel advances. Some 70,000 people have now been killed in the civil war.