Turkey ready for ‘any scenario’ in Syria

Foreign minister says Ankara opposes military option against Syria but is ready for any scenario if crackdown continues.

The Turkish foreign minister has said that Ankara is ready for any scenario if Syria continues its crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad, but that his country is opposed to a military option against its neighbour.

Ahmet Davutoglu, in an interview with television broadcaster Kanal 24 on Tuesday, said: “We hope that a military intervention will never be necessary.

“However, the Syrian regime has to find a way of making peace with its own people to eliminate this option. If the oppression continues, Turkey is ready for any scenario.”

Davutoglu also said the international community may decide a buffer zone is needed in Syria if increasing numbers of people try to flee the violence there.

“If tens, hundreds of thousands of people start advancing towards the Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey borders, not only Turkey but the international community may be required to take some steps such as a buffer zone,” he said.

“We don’t want that to happen but we must consider and work on that scenario.”

Moreover, he said that Turkish sanctions against Syria were ready and would be announced after he meets with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He did not specify a time frame.

Ankara has stepped up its criticism of the government’s crackdown on Syria’s uprising after Turkish diplomatic missions came under attack by pro-government demonstrators in several cities earlier this month.

Davutoglu’s comments came as activists reported that at least 12 people were killed across Syria on Tuesday, including two children.

The Local Co-ordination Committee said that five people were killed in the Damascus suburb of Rankous, three in the central province of Homs, two in Qalamoun, one in the central province of Hama and one in Saraqib in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Arms embargo ‘unfair’

Meanwhile, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister dismissed calls for an arms embargo on Syria and warned against imposing ultimatums on Assad’s government.

Speaking in Moscow on Tuesday after a meeting with the Icelandic foreign minister, Lavrov said that calls for an arms embargo on Syria were “unfair”, adding that armed groups opposing the government had been supplied from the outside.

“…orders to shoot and otherwise mistreat civilians originated from policies and directives issued at the highest levels of the [Syrian]armed forces and the government”

– The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria

He drew parallels to the fighting in Libya, where he said the West armed the opposition forces despite a UN arms embargo.

Lavrov said Syria’s problems could not be solved by ultimatums and reaffirmed Moscow’s call for a political settlement.

A Russian defence ministry official on Tuesday told the ITAR-TASS news agency that his country’s only aircraft carrier and its most modern anti-submarine destroyer will lead a powerful flotilla on a rare port call to Syria before the end of the year.

The flotilla will reach the little-used Russian base in the port of Tartus by New Year’s Eve on a mission that was planned in advance and has no direct relation to Syria’s intensifying standoff with the West, the official said.

Saudis urged to leave

In a separate development, Saudi Arabia urged its citizens to leave Syria after similar calls by the governments of Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“Due to the security situation, Saudi Arabia urges its citizens to leave Syria and not travel there,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

Also on Tuesday, Western diplomats said the UN’s top human rights body will hold an urgent meeting on Friday to discuss the situation in Syria.

It will be the third special session of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council since the start of the uprising began.

Diplomats told the AP news agency that more than 20 of the council’s 47 members have signed the call to hold the meeting.

An expert panel appointed by the council released a report on Monday accusing senior Syrian government officials and leaders of the country’s military and security forces of ordering mass atrocities in efforts to crush anti-government protests.

The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria said that government forces committed crimes against humanity, including the killing and torturing of children, and held state officials responsible for murder, rape and torture.

“The commission believes that orders to shoot and otherwise mistreat civilians originated from policies and directives issued at the highest levels of the armed forces and the government,” the panel said in its report.

‘Children killed’

The panel interviewed 223 victims and witnesses, including defectors from Assad’s security forces, who told of shoot-to-kill orders against demonstrators and cases of children being tortured to death.

At least 256 children had been killed by government forces as of early November, with some boys sexually tortured, the panel said in its report to the UN Human Rights Council.

It also quoted one former soldier who said he decided to defect after witnessing an officer shoot a two-year-old girl in the city of Latakia, then claim he killed her so she would not grow up to be a demonstrator.

Following the latest UN report, the US and Germany led Western calls on Monday for the UN Security Council to finally take “decisive action” against Syria’s atrocities.

The 15-member council was split last month by a European-drafted resolution condemning Assad’s crackdown.

Russia and China vetoed the resolution, while Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon abstained.

Because of the internal divisions, the Security Council has so far only agreed to a statement, with less moral weight, against the violence in Syria.

The 193 member UN General Assembly passed a resolution last week deploring the violence.

Source: News Agencies