Turkey raises option of Syria military intervention

Russia urges caution; int'l community may decide buffer zone needed if people try to flee violence there, Davutoglu says.

By REUTERS
November 29, 2011 11:50
2 minute read.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

Davutoglu 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

 
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ISTANBUL/MOSCOW - Turkey on Tuesday raised the option of military intervention in neighboring Syria while Russia rejected even an arms embargo as Damascus tries to stifle anti-government protests.

Highlighting divisions among foreign powers on how to deal with the bloodsheding Syria, Turkey's foreign minister said Ankara was ready for "any scenario." Russia's foreign minister for his part said it was time to stop issuing ultimatums to Damascus.

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Syria is facing increased economic sanctions and condemnation from many governments over what the United Nations calls "gross human rights violations" but President Bashar Assad shows no sign of buckling under pressure to end his military crackdown on protesters calling for his overthrow.

Western powers have long ruled out any Libyan-style military intervention in Syria to halt the crackdown, in which more than 3,500 people are believed have been killed in eight months.

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But Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested military force remained an option, albeit apparently a remote one, if Assad did not heed calls to halt the violence.

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"If the oppression continues, Turkey is ready for any scenario. We hope that a military intervention will never be necessary. The Syrian regime has to find a way of making peace with its own people," he told Kanal 24 TV.

Davutoglu also raised the possibility of a buffer zone if the violence provoked a flood of refugees, an idea used by Ankara inside northern Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected calls at the United Nations for an arms embargo against Syria, saying that a similar move against Libya had proved one-sided, helping rebels to topple Gaddafi in August.

"We know how that worked in Libya when the arms embargo only applied to the Libyan army. The opposition received weapons, and countries like France and Qatar publicly spoke about it without shame," he told a news conference.

Moscow, which has also been critical of further sanctions slapped on Syria by Western and Arab League states, has close political and strategic relations with Assad's government and has been one if its main arms suppliers.

Alluding to Western powers and the Arab League, Lavrov said it was time to "stop using ultimatums" to pressure Damascus and repeated Russia's calls for dialogue between the government and its foes, whom Moscow says share blame for the bloodshed.

"For the most part, armed groups are provoking the authorities. To expect the authorities to close their eyes to this is not right," Lavrov said.

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