4 Ağustos 2011 Perşembe

Turkey, EU ramp up Damascus pressure

Tuesday, August 2, 2011
UK’s foreign secretary and his Turkish counterpart agree to raise the
pressure on Syria as violence continues to sweep through the country
A group of Turks and Syrians chant slogans, wave flags and carry signs calling for the removal of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the ouster of his regime during a demonstration held outside the Syrian Embassy in Ankara on Monday. AFP photo

A group of Turks and Syrians chant slogans, wave flags and carry signs calling for the removal of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the ouster of his regime during a demonstration held outside the Syrian Embassy in Ankara on Monday. AFP photo

As increased violence continues to rage throughout Syria, the European Union and Turkey have agreed to put more pressure on Damascus, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday.
The expectations of more pressure “include Turkey,” which has been very active in trying to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to enact reforms instead of continuing his violent crackdown on protesters, Hague said, answering questions from the Hürriyet Daily News about a possible boost in sanctions on Syria with a statement from an interview he gave to BBC Radio 4 on Monday.

Hague spoke by phone with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Monday, a day after Syrian tanks stormed the restive city of Hama, killing at least 95 civilians, his office said. “Both sides agreed on increasing the pressure against Syria,” said Dima Naaman, the press and public affairs officer at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“The British foreign secretary’s message is clear; he would like to see more pressure from Turkey, not sanctions,” Naaman told the Daily News in a phone interview Tuesday.

In the written statement sent to the Daily News about Turkey’s role in the international response to the Syrian turmoil, Hague said Davutoğlu “agreed that increased international pressure was now necessary, so we will continue working on this.”

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the phone talks between the British and Turkish foreign ministries. “The British foreign secretary called Davutoğlu to discuss international matters, including Syria,” the official told the Daily News on Tuesday. Regarding possible sanctions to be imposed against Syria, the official said: “The decisions of the European Union are only binding for them, not for Turkey. There is nothing like sanctions on Turkey’s agenda for now.”

The European Union expanded its sanctions against Syria on Monday, imposing asset freezes and travel bans against five more military and government officials, according to an Associated Press report Tuesday. The decision brings the number of individuals targeted by the EU to 35, including Assad.

Turkey will maintain its ambassador in Damascus even as it steps up its pressure on the Syrian administration so that it can continue to work to urge reforms, a Turkish diplomat told the Daily News on Tuesday.

Italy has announced the recall of its ambassador in Damascus for consultation due to the “horrible repression” in Syria and called on other EU members to do the same. Yet Ankara plans to keep its ambassador in Damascus, the diplomat said. Ambassador Ömer Önhon was recently called back to Damascus from his holiday due to the urgent situation.

“At the moment there are more things to do than there were previously,” the official said, drawing attention to the efforts of international actors, which “should put pressure on Syria.”

Davutoğlu again condemned the recent acts of violence in Syria with a statement late Monday, saying Turkey would not remain silent in light of the fact that scores of people were being killed every day, while also calling on Damascus to cooperate with neighboring countries.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store, Davutoğlu reiterated that “both the timing and the method of the Syrian government forces’ operation in the city of Hama were completely wrong.”

“While we were expecting the Syrian government to make reforms, we learned about the operation. It is very wrong to conduct such an operation on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. Such events give wrongful messages to both the Syrian people and the international community,” he said.

“We hoped Syria would resolve its problems on its own by carrying out a series of reforms. It is the best option to encourage the Syrian government to make more reforms,” Davutoğlu said, adding that the second option was to resolve problems through regional dynamism by cooperating with neighboring countries.

“But if problems are left unsolved and every day scores of people are killed, no one can remain silent,” Davutoğlu said.

Echoing his remarks, Turkish President Abdullah Gül also said that “it is not possible for us to remain indifferent to this violence,” the Anatolia news agency reported Monday.

Syrian government forces recently stormed the city of Hama, killing at least 100 people.
* Sevil Küçükkoşum contributed to this report from Ankara.

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