Middle East
Dozens of deaths reported in Syria crackdown
Activists say at least 41 killed in 24 hours as Turkey says Assad's actions pose risk of regional turmoil.
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2011 20:49


Activists said that at least nine people were killed in Syria on Wednesday, including a child [Reuters]

Activists say at least 41 people have been killed across Syria over the past 24 hours, amid warning by Turkey that President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on dissent threatened to "drag the whole region into turmoil and bloodshed".

The Local Co-ordinating Committees activist network said that at least nine people were killed in Syria on Wednesday, including a child. Of those killed, three died in the central city of Hama and two in the suburbs of Damascus.

The UN says that more than 3,500 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the protests first broke out in Syria in March.

The deaths were reported as Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president, during a speech during a state visit to Britain on Wednesday, accused "the Baath regime continues to use oppression and violence on its own people".

"Violence breeds violence. Unfortunately Syria has come to a point of no return," he said.

Separately, Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said he would seek an EU backing for humanitarian corridors in Syria "to alleviate the suffering of the population".

However, he ruled out the possibility of military intervention to create a "buffer zone" in northern the country. Juppe made the comments after a meeting on Wednesday in Paris with Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition bloc.

"If it's possible to have a humanitarian dimension for a securitised zone to protect civilians, that's a question which
has to be studied by the European Union on the one side and the Arab League on the other," he said,

Juppe described the Syrian National Council as "the legitimate partner with which we want to work".

"We are working with the Arab League and all of our allies towards its recognition," he said.

UN resolution

Syria came under increased diplomatic pressure when the UN General Assembly's Human Rights Committee condemned its security crackdown in a vote backed by Western nations and a number of Arab states.

Tuesday's resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, received 122 votes in favour, 13 against and 41 abstentions.

Arab states that voted for it included co-sponsors Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt.

In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

Russia and China, which vetoed a European-drafted resolution that would have condemned Syria in the UN Security Council last month, abstained.

Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the UN, said the resolution had no meaning for his country and portrayed it as a US-inspired political move.

"Despite the fact that the draft resolution was basically presented by three European states, however it is no secret that the United States of America is ... the main mind behind the political campaign against my country," he said.

"This draft resolution has no relevance to human rights, other than it is part of an adversarial American policy against my country."

Jaafari displayed for delegates what he said were documents containing the "names of terrorists arrested while smuggling arms through the borders of Syria".

He said the documents offered clear proof of a US-led plot to topple the government of Assad.

Earlier on Tuesday, Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, called on Assad to leave power, accusing him of "cowardice" for turning guns on his own people and warning he risked the same fate as dictators who met bloody deaths.

Earlier this week, a bus carrying Turkish pilgrims came under fire in Syria as they were travelling back from the Hajj, leaving two injured.

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