Angry Turks hint at military action against Syrian regime
Published 16/11/2011 | 05:00
Turkey was on the brink of open confrontation over its border with Syria yesterday, announcing its first economic sanctions against Damascus and saying President Bashar al-Assad's regime was "on a knife-edge".
The Turkish government, which has turned from being Mr Assad's ally into his fiercest critic in a few short months, said it was suspending joint oil exploration and considering stopping electricity supplies to its neighbour.
For the first time, a senior official openly discussed the possibility of imposing a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border to provide sanctuary for refugees.
That would imply direct military action.
The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, will join counterparts from the Arab League at a summit in Morocco today to discuss further measures after a day of frantic lobbying by the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), eager to capitalise on Mr Assad's isolation.
Turkey wants "sanctions with an impact that spares harm to the Syrian people," Mr Davutoglu said.
Recep Tayipp Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said: "Our wish is that the Assad regime, which is now on a knife-edge, does not enter this road of no return.
"No regime can survive by killing or jailing. No one can build a future over the blood of the oppressed."
The United States said that it hoped the Arab League would use its meeting to send a forceful message to Mr Assad to halt violence against his people.
The Syrian Observatory human rights group called for both a buffer zone and a Libyan-style no-fly zone.
It urged the international community "to take its moral and legal responsibilities", and demanded "urgent effective action to help the Syrians".
Neither Turkey nor the Arab League look likely to go that far immediately, despite Saturday's decision to suspend Syria's League membership. But Turkish leaders threatened direct action if there were any repeat of the attacks on its consulates in Syria at the weekend. (© Daily Telegraph, London)