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Turkey Appeals To Russia As Syrian Violence Spikes

  • Henry Ridgwell

ANKARA — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Moscow Wednesday for talks on the escalating crisis in Syria, as a bomb blast killed several members of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle during a security meeting in Damascus. Turkey fears being drawn further into the conflict just over its border.

Prime Minister Erdogan arrived in Moscow Wednesday just as the crisis in Syria took a violent new twist.

Gun battles raged across Damascus after a bomb attack at the National Security building killed and injured members of President Assad's inner circle.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed his Syrian ally throughout the crisis, blocking Western-sponsored resolutions at the U.N. condemning the Syrian government.

The conflict is raging near Turkey's border. Plumes of smoke could be seen Wednesday just a few kilometers into Syria. Ankara has sent reinforcements after one of its military jets was shot down by Syrian forces in June.

Prime Minister Erdogan attended the funeral of one of the pilots earlier this month.

A former ally of Syria, he is now one of its most vocal critics - calling the violence "the last footsteps of a regime on its way out."

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal is urging international cooperation to stop the violence.

"In the case of Syria every country has a different policy and on that there's a strong and long debate still ongoing. I think all countries should be encouraged to pay efforts to stop bloodshed in Syria," Unal said.

Unal said little has come from the peace plan put forward by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan.

"The international community should do more in the sense of increasing the political pressure on the Syrian administration. In that sense, we have supported, we support the efforts of Mr. Annan, but of course this should also bring something concrete," Unal said.

The West has heavily criticized Russia and China for blocking U.N. resolutions against Syria. But Turkey is playing a careful diplomatic game as both countries are valuable trading partners.

After the Damascus bombing, Kofi Annan asked the U.N. Security Council to delay a vote on a new resolution about Syria. Russia's position is seen as key.

Analysts say while the latest attack increases pressure on the five permanent Council members to find a way to end the violence, there are few signs that their differences can be overcome.

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