Syrians would accept Turkish intervention: Brotherhood leader

Syrians would accept Turkish intervention: Brotherhood leader

ISTANBUL - Reuters
Syrians would accept Turkish intervention: Brotherhood leader

One of Syria's opposition leaders, Ryad Shaqfa, speaks during a press conference following a gathering of Syrian opposition leaders and activists in Istanbul, on October 2, 2011. AFP Photo

A leader of Syria's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood said today that the Syrian people would accept military intervention by Turkey, rather than Western countries, to protect them from President Bashar al-Assad's security forces.

Mohammad Riad Shaqfa, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia, told a news conference in Istanbul that the international community should isolate Assad's government to encourage people to press their struggle to end more than four decades of Assad family rule.

Hundreds of people have been killed this month, one of the bloodiest periods in the revolt since it began last March. The United Nations estimates that 3,500 civilians have been killed in the past eight months in a crackdown on the protests.

If Assad's government refused to halt its bloody repression, Shaqfa said it might call for foreign, preferably Turkish, military intervention to protect people.

"If the international community procrastinates then more is required from Turkey as a neighbour to be more serious than other countries to handle this regime," Shaqfa said.

"If other interventions are required, such as air protection, because of the regime's intransigence, then the people will accept Turkish intervention. They do not want Western intervention," Shaqfa said.

The Syrian authorities have banned most independent media and blame the unrest on armed terrorist gangs and foreign-backed militants who they say have killed 1,100 soldiers and police.

NATO-member Turkey had close ties with Assad, but now regards the government in Damascus as untrustworthy. Assad has so far ignored Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's repeated entreaties to halt the violence and make urgent political reforms that the protesters are demanding.

Ankara is considering imposing economic sanctions that would target Assad's government without harming the people, and is working with Arab governments to increase pressure on Damascus to halt the attacks.

Several thousand Syrians, including army officers involved in the armed struggle against Assad, have taken refuge in Turkey, and the opposition has met regularly in Turkey to form the Syrian National Council.

The Syrian National Council is the foremost opposition group, bringing together people ranging from exiled dissidents to grassroots activists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

After mobs attacked Turkey's diplomatic missions in Syria at the weekend, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hosted representatives of the Syrian opposition at dinner on Sunday.

Turkish officials have repeatedly denied media speculation that one of the contingencies being planned is the creation of a buffer zone inside Syrian territory to protect civilians, and to make it easier for members of the Syrian military to desert.

On Thursday, Turkish officials denied a report in Sabah, a newspaper regarded as close to the government, that said representatives of the Syrian opposition had requested Turkey make plans to implement a no-fly zone a few kilometres inside Syrian territory, and to expand it gradually to cover the city of Aleppo.

Sabah said Turkey told the Syrian opposition that three conditions would have to be met, namely; the no fly zone was U.N. mandated, the Arab League took the initiative to support the process, and the United States and European Union acted as guarantors.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told French BFM Radio on Thursday that France was helping Syrian opposition groups become more organised. Juppe was due to visit Turkey for talks on Thursday and Friday that would focus on Syria.

Shaqfa said members of the opposition council would meet British officials soon.