Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday of a “civil war” in Syria, where forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime continue a deadly crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

Speaking at a televised press conference and quoted by the Al-Arabiya network, Erdogan said, “The situation that has emerged there is right now heading towards a religious, sectarian and racial civil war. This must be stopped.”

He added, “Turkey must play a leading role here. A civil war which could emerge would put us in difficulty... and pose a threat to us.”

Turkey has stepped up its criticism of Assad's crackdown on opposition protests, and Erdogan has openly called on his one-time ally Assad to step down.

“Syria right now has an administration which mercilessly murders its own citizens. Nobody can expect us to applaud... authoritarian regimes,” Al-Arabiya quoted Erdogan as having said.

He added that Turkey had begun implementing sanctions against the Syrian leadership and said that they would increase according to the situation on the ground.

Erdogan’s comments come a day after the Arab League demanded that the Syrian government immediately stop all violence and allow more monitors in.

The demand came following an Arab League meeting in Cairo to decide whether it’s time to invite the United Nations to join its mission to Syria.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani said the ministers did not agree to call for UN experts to join the observers’ mission in Syria, but said UN experts will train the monitors in Cairo before they leave.

Meanwhile, the violence continued to rage in the country, with activists reporting that at least 10 more civilians, including two teenagers, were killed by regime forces.

The UN has said that more than 5,000 people have been killed since March when the uprising against Assad began.