Turkish PM says Syria on ‘knife edge’

Scores of people reported killed over the past 24 hours in one of the country’s bloodiest days of violence.

Tayyip Erdogan
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, has increased pressure on Damascus over its crackdown on protesters, warning President Bashar al-Assad that Syria is on a “knife edge”.

Erdogan said he no longer had confidence in the Syrian regime, saying Assad’s actions threatened to place him on a list of leaders who “feed on blood”.

Turkey also threatened to cut electricity supplies to neighbouring Syria if the violence did not stop.  

“Right now, as of Tuesday, we are supplying electricity there [to Syria], but if this course continues, we may have to review all of these decisions,” Taner Yildiz, Turkey’s energy minister, said.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, the Lebanese capital, said she spoke to an opposition activist who told her it was the Syrian people who would be affected the most if Turkey cut electricity to Syria “so he [the opposition activist] didn’t get what type of logic was behind it”.

Turkey’s warnings come as at least 70 people were killed in violence across Syria over the past 24 hours, in one of the bloodiest days since an anti-government uprising began eight months ago, activists said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that 27 civilians had been shot dead by security forces, and that 34 soldiers, as well as 12 suspected army deserters, were killed in clashes.

Most of the victims were killed in the southern flashpoint province of Deraa, the observatory said in a statement.

“Twenty-three people were shot dead by security forces posted along the road between the towns of Kherbet Ghazale and Hirak,” the statement said.

At least four other civilians were killed by security force fire in the city of Homs, a protest hub in central Syria, the rights group reported.

Syrian state television reported on Tuesday that the government had released 1,180 prisoners.

The prisoners released “were described as having no blood on their hand,” Amin said.

Human rights activists inside Syria told our correspondent that “there are about 30,000 prisoners still in jail in Syria so this number is a drop in the bucket”.

Russian stance ‘shameful’

A delegation from the main Syrian opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council (SNC), visited Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russian diplomats. 

Burhan Ghalioun, the Paris-based head of the SNC who led the delegation, said: “The Russian foreign minister has confirmed the need for an Arab initiative because decisions by the ministerial meeting of the Arab League uphold the Arab peace initiative and don’t contradict it.”

Russia has repeatedly opposed Western efforts to impose sanctions against its traditional Middle Eastern ally over its lethal crackdown, insisting on the need for dialogue.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen el-Shamayleh, reporting from the Jordanian capital, Amman, spoke to activists who told her they consider the position of Russia “shameful”.

“They also said that there are reports that early on Tuesday a new shipment of tanks arrived at the Port of Latakia in Syria and that it could be traced back to Russia,” El-Shamayleh said.

The latest developments come ahead of an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Wednesday where the bloc is expected to suspend Syria’s membership over the government’s crackdown.

However, late on Tuesday the official Syrian news agency reported that Syria would not be sending a representative to the Arab League meeting, ensuring Syria’s suspension from the bloc.

Embassies stormed

A Jordanian official said on Tuesday that his country’s embassy in Damascus was attacked after Jordan’s king criticised Assad over the  crackdown.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Kayed said about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the embassy on Monday after King Abdullah told the BBC that Assad should step down.

Three protesters scaled the embassy fence and took down the Jordanian flag, Kayed said on Tuesday. He said that no one entered the embassy, nor were there any injuries.

Erdogan also urged Assad to punish those responsible for attacks on Sunday on Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria.

Addressing Assad by his first name, Erdogan said: “Bashar, you who have thousands of people in jail, must find the culprits and punish them.”

Our correspondent said: “This [remark] is not coming out of the blue we are seeing pressure mounting from all sides.”

The UN says at least 3,500 people have been killed in Assad’s crackdown on the protests and human rights groups say security forces have carried out killings and torture which constitute crimes against humanity.

Authorities blame armed groups for the violence, saying at least 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed since the uprising broke out in March.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies