Turkey Tells Assad: Stop Killing Civilians

Turkish Foreign Minister tells Assad to stop killing civilians, while Assad promises to continue to "fight terrorists".

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Elad Benari,

Turkish FM Ahmet Davutgolu
Turkish FM Ahmet Davutgolu

Turkey demanded on Tuesday that the Syrian government stop the killing of civilians, Reuters reported.

Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, made the demands during talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.

He later told reporters in Ankara that his country will be watching developments in Syria in the days ahead.

“Developments in the coming days will be critical, for both Syria and Turkey,” Davutoglu was quoted by Reuters as saying. “Turkey’s main and first aim is for the bloodshed to be stopped, and (for) an end to civilian deaths.”

Davutoglu said he had clearly stated Turkey’s expectations in his talks with Assad, describing the 3-1/2 hour meeting as friendly, open and specific. He added he had conveyed a written message to Assad from Turkish President Abdullah Gul and an oral message from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

“We hope that those steps that will stop the bloodshed will be taken,” he was quoted as saying.

Davutoglu said Assad had spoken of militants seeking to destabilize Syria, adding that he advised the Syrian leader to distinguish between terrorists and civilians in fighting terrorism.

Assad, however, said there would be no let-up in military action.

The state-run SANA news agency quoted Assad has having told Davutoglu that his country “will not relent in pursuing the terrorist groups in order to protect the stability of the country and the security of the citizens.”

The report added, however, that Syria “is also determined to continue reforms ... and is open to any help offered by friendly and brotherly states.”

Davutoglu said Turkey remained committed to building a common future with Syria and would maintain contacts with all parts of Syrian society.

“We have a unity of fate with Syria and we will continue this,” he was quoted as saying. “We will continue our contacts, we will continue our contacts with all the parties from Syria.”

The meeting between the two came following an escalation in Assad’s crackdown on the protesters against his regime.

Earlier on Tuesday, it was reported that Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib was found dead, less than 24 hours after being fired by Assad.

Syrian official press reported that Habib had died of a disease, but opposition websites claimed that he was executed by the government. A-Sharq al-Awsat reported Tuesday morning that Habib had opposed the lethal operation in Hama that cost the lives of hundreds of civilians.