Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on opponents bears the hallmarks of war crimes and his violent repression is damaging the chances of a negotiated peace, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday.
The comments by Syria's powerful neighbor indicated the
latest violence had put Assad beyond redemption in Ankara's eyes, despite his
once-close friendship with Turkey.
"The Syrian regime is committing a crime against
humanity every day," Davutoglu told a joint news conference with visiting
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.
"I am saying this clearly, after these many
massacres and crimes, which have characteristics of war crimes, the Syrian
regime closes all doors to dialogue."
Ankara has been at the forefront of efforts to nurture
the Syrian opposition since abandoning Assad, hosting the Syrian National
Council and sheltering members of the Free Syrian Army.
A report on the state-run Anatolian news agency website
said Syrian troops backed by tanks had seized the village of Ain al-Beida, near
the border with Turkey, in a pre-dawn assault on Saturday. Some wounded people
had fled across the frontier for treatment, the agency said.
Hours earlier at a meeting in Istanbul, SNC representatives
pressed Davutoglu to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to people
trapped by Assad's forces inside Syria.
Turkey will host a meeting of the international
community, mainly Arab countries and Western powers, in Istanbul later this
month as a follow-up to the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Tunis in
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon piled pressure on Assad's
government at the General Assembly on Friday, referring to "grisly
reports" of arbitrary execution, imprisonment and torture, as well as
heavy civilian losses during the assault on the Baba Amro district of Homs,
Syria's third largest city.
Davutoglu and Terzi also condemned Syria for denying an
international aid convoy access to Baba Amro.
"As savagery of this magnitude goes on, the blocking
of humanitarian aid or not admitting UN representatives to Syria is also a
separate crime," Davutoglu said.
"The recent incidents in Baba Amro and those that
took place in Zabadi before that, and previous incidents in other cities, have
become an organized massacre campaign run by a regular army against its own
U.N. officials estimate that more than 7,500 people have
been killed in Syria during almost year-long crackdown.
"They used to intervene using bullets against
protesters. Now they are bombarding the cities with people inside. This is
unacceptable, even under conditions of war," said Davutoglu.
The Syrian government said in December that "armed
terrorists" had killed more than 2,000 soldiers and police during the
Terzi said Assad had lost legitimacy as a leader and
should seek terms to go into exile as Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had
done, allowing the election of a new leader.
"There must be a change," he said. "The
Yemen solution is the most practicable."
Davutoglu's suggestion that Assad could be guilty of war
crimes indicates how Ankara has lost patience with their one-time ally. A year
ago, Ankara criticized Western powers for accusing Muammar Gaddafi of crimes
against humanity, arguing it would box him in and leave the Libyan leader with
no option but to fight to the death.
The Turkish minister went onto compare slaughter in Syria
to the carnage during the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s, and took a swipe at
the United Nation's Security Council for not taking a stronger stand due to
vetoes from Russia and China.
"The current picture resembles Sarajevo and
Srebrenica more and more every day. Unfortunately, the lack of consensus of the
international community encourages the regime," he said.
*Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Ben Harding