Middle East

Syria crisis: Turkish president demands change

Turkish President Abdullah Gul (image from 1 Nov 2011)
Image caption Abdullah Gul said Turkey supported the demands of the Syrian people

The Turkish president has said his country will not remain indifferent to Syria's crisis and will support the demands of the Syrian people.

Speaking to the BBC, Abdullah Gul said that "fundamental reforms" were needed in Syria.

He said Turkey no longer trusted its former ally, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

The UN says more than 3,500 people have died since the start of the protests against Mr Assad in March.

The Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs and militants.

On Monday, at least 20 people died including two women and a child, with the highest number of deaths near the flashpoint city of Homs, activists from the Local Co-Ordination Committees said in a statement.

Mr Gul said that the Syrian regime had now reached a "dead end" and that the country was prepared for the worst-cast scenario.

"[In] this age, authoritarian regimes or one-party rule are no longer acceptable, first by the people of that country, and of course, [by] the region and the world."

His comments echo those of the country's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has said Syria's future cannot be built on "the blood of the oppressed" and come as European states launched a fresh attempt to bring Syria before the UN Security Council.

The UN General Assembly's human rights committee is expected to vote on Tuesday on a resolution condemning the crackdown on protesters.

The resolution, proposed by Germany, France and Britain, sparked accusations from the Syrian government envoy to the UN that Europe was suffering from "Syria-phobia," AFP reports.

'Too little, too late'

The Turkish president said that despite frequent personal contact with Mr Assad, assurances that reform in the country were imminent had not been followed by concrete change.

"Unfortunately, it was too little, too late," he said. "So therefore we don't have any more trust."

Mr Gul said the Syrian people deserved the changes they sought, and had been forced on to the streets as their "legitimate demands" were not being met.

"We don't want to interfere in Syrian domestic issues but since this is happening in our neighbourhood, since the Syrian people are our friends and since we wish them well, we cannot be indifferent."

But he said Turkey would have no doubts about defending itself from any attacks on Turkish interests in the country.

Mr Gul said Syria needed broader change than merely removing Mr Assad from office.

"It's not one person - it's the regime, it's the Baath party, it's the structure," he said.

He said that already some 10,000 Syrian refugees had flooded across the border into the country and that Turkey would continue to offer assistance to others.

But he said that, for humanitarian reasons, Turkey had no plans to stop providing electricity to its neighbour.

Meanwhile, in Syria, a bus carrying Turkish pilgrims, has come under gun attack in the central Syrian city of Homs, injuring at least two people.

A driver of another bus in the convoy said the bus had been carrying 25 butchers back from Saudi Arabia following the festival of Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice, which starts after the Hajj (pilgrimage).

"Syrian soldiers emerged from behind sandbags and cursed Recep Tayyip Erdogan when we told them we were Turks. Then they suddenly opened fire at the bus," Erhan Surmeli told the Associated Press.