(Updates with Medvedev-Erdogan call in fifth paragraph, French stance in last.)
Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Syria’s violence is heading toward an “intolerable point,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, as he called for an international coalition to stop President Bashar al-Assad’s deadly crackdown.
“Very clear and decisive statements need to be delivered to the Syrian regime,” Davutoglu said in an interview on NTV television in Ankara today before leaving for the U.S., where he will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Syria can’t be left to solve its problems alone and “we are determined to establish a broad international consensus,” he said.
Turkey’s initiative follows Russia and China’s Feb. 4 veto of a United Nations resolution supported by the Arab League, the European Union and the U.S. aimed at ending the violence, which has led to more than 5,400 deaths since March. The veto gives the impression the deaths will “go unanswered” by the world and it would be “naive” to expect change from Assad, Davutoglu said.
Turkey is looking to establish the “most broad-based” coalition, which should include members of the UN Security Council, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Arab states, Davutoglu said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that a “coordinated approach” must be found to help resolve the conflict without outside interference. The leaders spoke by telephone today, according to a statement e-mailed by the Kremlin.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was yesterday in Damascus, where Assad pledged a new constitution and asked Russia to broker talks with the opposition.
“The promises made to Mr. Lavrov yesterday had been made to us numerous times before,” Davutoglu said. “We can no longer allow the bloodshed of our brothers with these time- saving tactics.”
The head of Syria’s main opposition bloc, Burhan Ghalioun, said Russia has lost its credibility by supporting Assad as Syrian forces continue their killing. Ghalioun, of the Syrian National Council, spoke to Al Jazeera television by telephone.
The prospect of civil war has been growing as the daily death toll mounts and Assad uses tanks and artillery in cities where protesters are calling for the end of his rule.
Syria’s army shelled residential districts in the city of Homs, killing 43 people, Al Jazeera reported today, citing unidentified Syrian activists. Five Syrian soldiers were killed and two armored vehicles were destroyed in fighting in Idlib in the north, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement today.
Economic activity in Homs has came to a halt and people are starving, Davutoglu said.
Syria’s government has blamed “terrorists” and foreign provocateurs for fomenting the protests and rejected an Arab League plan for Assad to transfer power to a deputy, who would then begin talks with the opposition to form a unity government within two months.
EU governments are moving toward stiffer sanctions on Syria. The 27-nation bloc is considering a freeze on central bank assets and a ban on imports of phosphates and precious metals, an EU official told reporters in Brussels today on condition of anonymity. EU foreign ministers are expected to iron out details in time for approval on Feb. 27, the person said. Syria sells 40 percent of its phosphate production to European clients, the official said.
France “will not abandon” the Syrian people and will work with allies to strengthen ties to opposition groups, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told parliament today. He called the Russian and Chinese vetoes of the UN resolution a “stain” on the Security Council’s reputation and expressed little hope that Lavrov’s visit to Damascus will end the violence. “Assad will make the usual promises that he has no intention of keeping,” Juppe said.
--With assistance from Glen Carey and Nayla Razzouk in Dubai, James G. Neuger in Brussels, Terry Atlas in Washington, Caroline Alexander in London, Paul Abelsky in Moscow and Gregory Viscusi in Paris. Editors: Louis Meixler, Andrew Atkinson, Jennifer Freedman.
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