Bloomberg News

Erdogan Says Assad Must Quit to End Syria ‘Persecution’

November 23, 2011

(Updates with Erdogan comments in second paragraph.)

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Bashar al-Assad to quit, deepening the Syrian president’s international isolation.

Assad should “step down from that seat without causing any further persecution,” Erdogan said in an address to his party’s lawmakers in the Ankara parliament today. “If he can’t learn his lesson, he should look at the Libyan leader who was killed after turning his guns on his own people.”

Erdogan’s call, his first explicit demand for Assad’s resignation, reinforces a Nov. 14 demand from King Abdullah of Jordan for new leadership in Syria, where Assad’s crackdown on eight months of protests has left thousands dead. Defectors from Syria’s army, some of them based in Turkey, have started attacking Assad’s forces. The U.S. and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Syria, and the Arab League has suspended its membership.

Erdogan spoke after a bus carrying Turkish Muslim pilgrims traveling from Saudi Arabia through Syria was fired on yesterday, injuring two people. Turkish diplomatic offices in Syria have also been attacked.

Erdogan is a former ally of Assad who has holidayed with the Syrian leader. Earlier this year he worked to persuade the president to increase democracy and respond to protester’s demands, and in recent months he has expressed anger at Assad’s failure to take those measures.

‘Immediate Measures’

Arab foreign ministers are due to meet on Nov. 24 to discuss Syria. The Arab League has announced plans to send about 500 monitors to Syria, and refused to negotiate over the proposal after Syria suggested adjustments, according to Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency. The League reiterated a call for “immediate measures” to stop the bloodshed, and threatened to impose economic sanctions.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said in a televised press conference on Nov. 20 that the Arab League measures infringe on Syria’s sovereignty and aim to pave the way for foreign intervention.

Assad said in an interview with the Sunday Times of London that “Syria will not bow down and that it will continue to resist the pressure being imposed on it.”

Turkey’s position is not “interference, or a call for external intervention,” Erdogan said. “We can’t just turn our back when a people is persecuted in a country with which we have a 910-kilometer border.”

Turkish intervention in Syria could be acceptable as long as it aims to protect the Syrian public, Mohammed Riad al- Shaqfa, the exiled secretary-general of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, told reporters at a conference in Istanbul yesterday, according to Hurriyet. “We can expect more from our neighbor Turkey,” al-Shaqfa said, according to the Istanbul- based newspaper.

--With assistance from Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon. Editors: Ben Holland, Louis Meixler.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steve Bryant in Ankara at sbryant5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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