May 24, 2013
Turkey pressures Syria to end crackdown
Syrian tanks have begun leaving the central city of Hama and Turkey expects the Syrian government to start reforms within 15 days to ease popular unrest, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said today. Erdogan said Turkey had given a clear message to Syria in talks to end the military repression of mass pro-democracy demonstrations against 41 years of autocratic Assad family rule that erupted five months ago.
"In Syria, the state is pointing guns at its own people," Erdogan said. "Turkey's message to Assad is very clear: stop all kinds of violence and bloodshed."
Addressing a meeting of his ruling AK Party in the capital Ankara, Erdogan called on Damascus to meet the democracy demands of the Syrian people. "We hope that will all be realized in 10-15 days, and steps taken toward the reform process in Syria."
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held more than six hours of talks with President Bashar al-Assad and other Syrian officials in Damascus today.
Turkey, which had been one of Assad's few remaining friends in the Middle East, has become increasingly impatient amidst mounting international outrage over a death toll in the violence said by rights activists to have exceeded 1,600 people.
Assad's policy of storming and shelling protest hotbeds with tanks has failed to stop unrest spreading and hardened doubts as to whether he is genuinely committed to change.
The US Treasury Department announced today new sanctions against Syria that it said were aimed at the financial infrastructure helping to hold up the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The department said it was designating the Commercial Bank of Syria, a Syrian state-owned financial institution, and its Lebanon-based subsidiary, Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, under a presidential executive order that targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters.
"By exposing Syria's large commercial bank as an agent for designated Syrian and North Korean proliferators, and by targeting Syria's largest mobile phone operator for being controlled by one of the regime's most corrupt insiders, we are taking aim at the financial infrastructure that is helping provide support to Assad and his regime's illicit activities," Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a statement.