News / Middle East

Turkey Wants International Conference on Syria

Turkish soldiers survey Syrian border as Red Crescent officials, soldiers distribute food to Syrians in Guvecci, Hatay province, Turkey, June 28, 2011 (file photo).
Turkish soldiers survey Syrian border as Red Crescent officials, soldiers distribute food to Syrians in Guvecci, Hatay province, Turkey, June 28, 2011 (file photo).
Dorian Jones

Turkey is calling for renewed international efforts to end bloodshed in neighboring Syria, where a government assault on the city of Homs, a center of dissent, is intensifying.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday called for an urgent meeting of regional and world players to end the ongoing violence.

Explaining that Turkey is determined to establish a broad-based forum to promote international understanding with all countries concerned, the foreign minister said his country is ready to host such a meeting and that it should be as broadly encompassing as possible. He said the conference could take place in Istanbul or another regional center.

As a Syrian neighbor and NATO member that has worked closely with Washington on the Syrian crisis, Ankara, observers say, is well-placed to organize such a gathering.

The Turkish government has close ties with many North African and Middle Eastern countries, and Davutoglu, who said he already laid the groundwork for a broad meeting, speaking in recent days with his Italian, Qatari and Iranian counterparts, is flying to Washington Wednesday to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials.

His announcement follows Saturday's veto by Russia and China of a U.N. Security Council motion against the Syrian crackdown, which Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned as a fiasco.

The diplomatic move is seen by some as an attempt to circumvent the U.N. impasse and build an international alliance similar to the Libya Contact Group, which helped Libyan opposition oust Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

Ankara has been backing Syrian opposition, harboring many of its leaders and providing sanctuary along the Turkey-Syria border to members of the Free Syrian Army, a militia of military defectors fighting Syrian security forces.

Turkish diplomats say they are aware that, with Syria's crackdown on the opposition intensifying, time is against them.

"We will not let tyranny continue in Syria and we [won't] let the region enter a phase of instability," said Davutoglu, who made it clear that Turkey will not stand back from Syria's deepening crisis.

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