Prime Minister Erdoğan: Assad will leave

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once more reiterated that Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad, formerly a good friend of the prime minister, will “leave sooner or later,” urging the international community to cooperate and do “what it needs to do” to end 15 months of violence.

In a joint news conference with South African Vice President Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe, Erdoğan said he had a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with Assad in Aleppo in early 2011, when he urged Assad to reform and take steps to democratize the country. “In fact, there were very good relations with Syria in the past seven-and-a-half years. These relations also blossomed between our families. The president, foreign minister and I matured this relationship,” Erdoğan told reporters.

“But the Syrian leader has never honored his promise,” he underlined. Erdoğan noted that Assad can silence dissent by killing, but “humanity will never remain silent.”

The prime minister also claimed that the Syrian opposition is moving forward in the country while “Bashar is surviving with the help of a few countries.” Saying that the entire world is against the Syrian president, Erdoğan said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the UN General Assembly that Assad has lost all legitimacy.

Ban said each day in Syria sees “grimmer atrocities” and that for many months it has been evident that Assad and his government “have lost all legitimacy.” Stressing that Turkey will never remain silent in the face of mass killings in Syria, Erdoğan said Assad will “leave sooner or later” and that he is now preparing for his end. He added, “You already know which countries are helping him.”

Erdoğan said Syria’s most immediate need is to end the massacres, recalling the mass killings in Hama province. Activists accused government forces of killing nearly 80 people, including women and children who were shot, hacked to death and burned in their homes in Mazraat al-Qubair, an agricultural area.

The reports came just weeks after more than 100 people were killed in one day in a cluster of villages known as Houla in central Homs province, many of them children and women gunned down in their homes. UN investigators blamed pro-government gunmen for at least some of the killings, but the Syrian regime denied responsibility and blamed rebels for the deaths.

Erdoğan said joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s latest remarks are clear evidence that the Syrian government does not honor its promises. He added that Ban implied in his speech before the General Assembly on Thursday that the Annan peace plan has come to an end, adding that these are signs of the start of a new process, without elaborating.

He noted that Chinese President Hu Jintao had told him during his visit to China that China will not use its veto with respect to Syria, adding that he does not know if China will live up to its word. He said he is planning to make diplomatic overtures, if possible, with Russia to urge Moscow to help end the violence in Syria.


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