Middle East

Syria blasts Turkish 'gaffe' on Assad-Shara switch

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, left, and Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz, right, sit in parliament during a debate on Turkey-Syria relations, in Ankara,on October 4, 2012. PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN

DAMASCUS: Syria on Monday accused Turkey of having made a "political and diplomatic gaffe" with its suggestion that Vice President Faruq al-Shara take over from the country's embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

"What (Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet) Davutoglu said amounts to a flagrant political and diplomatic gaffe," Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said, quoted on state television.

"We're not in the days of the Ottoman Empire any more. I advise the Turkish government to give up (power) in favour of personalities who are acceptable to the Turkish people," he fired back.

Davutoglu said on Saturday that Shara was "a man of reason and conscience and he has not taken part in the massacres in Syria. Nobody knows the (Syrian) system better than he."

The Syrian opposition, which Turkey supports, "is inclined to accept Shara" in place of Assad, he said on the public television channel TRT.

Ties between Ankara and Damascus, which have been tense since the March 2011 start of a revolt in Syria, worsened sharply after Syrian shellfire from across the border killed five Turkish villagers last week.

Turkey, which hosts nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees on its territory, openly supports rebels from the Free Syrian Army and has openly called for Assad's ouster.

It has systematically retaliated for several days for Syrian shelling that has hit Turkish territory.





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