Middle East

Turkey vows to support Syrian people

Syrian protesters wave by a giant Syrian flag during a protest in front of the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov.12, 2011. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

ANKARA: Turkey on Monday said it will take a "decisive attitude" over attacks on its diplomatic missions in Syria and will continue to support protesters seeking democratic reforms in the face of a government crackdown.

Turkey has formally protested the weekend attacks on its embassy in Damascus and consulates in the cities of Aleppo and Latakia, evacuated families of diplomats and nonessential staff and issued a warning to Turks against traveling to Syria.

"We will take a decisive attitude in the face of these attacks," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. "And we will continue to take our place at the side of the Syrian people's rightful struggle."

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday tried to break into the Turkish Embassy and the consulates to denounce an Arab League decision to suspend Syria's membership over its crackdown on the eight-month uprising. Turkey is not a member of the league, but welcomed the decision.

After the attacks, Turkey summoned Syria's charge d'affaires and issued a protest note Sunday demanding protection for its diplomatic missions. Turkey also demanded that the assailants be identified and brought to justice. Some 60 people returned home Sunday on a Turkish plane.

Turkey separately renewed its call on Syrian leaders to end the crackdown, which the U.N. estimates has killed more than 3,500 people since mid-March, saying "no administration can come out victorious from any struggle against its own people."

Turkey's government had cultivated warm ties with Assad, but has grown highly critical of Damascus. Turkey has imposed an arms embargo on Syria and is expected to announce other sanctions.

It has also opened its doors to thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the crackdown. More than 7,700 refugees are still being sheltered in several Turkish camps along the Syrian border.

Davutoglu on Sunday received a Syrian opposition group that is trying to form a united front against President Bashar Assad. The group sought permission to open an office in Turkey, state-run Anatolia news agency said on Monday.

Members of the Syrian National Council relayed their request to Davutoglu on Sunday, the agency said.

The council, a broad-based opposition umbrella group, was formed in Istanbul in September. No country has recognized it so far as a legal representative of the country and Syria has threatened tough measures against any country that does.

It was not clear if Turkey would agree to the group's demand. Syrian opposition members have already organized several meetings in Turkey.





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