'Turkey to send Assad ‘warning’ on reforms'

Ankara will call on Syrian President Assad to enact reforms, stop violent crackdown on protests, call Assad to remove brother from army post, Al-Arabiya reports.

June 20, 2011 02:03
2 minute read.
Maher and Bashar Assad

assad brothers 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Turkey will send a “warning letter” to Damascus later this week calling on President Bashar Assad to enact reforms and rein in the violent crackdown on the anti-regime protests that began in March, Al-Arabiya TV reported on Sunday.

According to the report, a Turkish envoy will be sent to Damascus to deliver the letter, which also calls for Assad to remove his 43-year-old brother Maher from command of the Fourth Armored Division, which has been behind some of the worst bloodshed during the four-month uprising. Turkey would agree to give Maher Assad asylum or facilitate his refuge in a European country, and work to ensure he doesn’t face charges, according to the report.

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The letter would call on Bashar Assad to allow peaceful demonstrations and freedom of expression, and remove a ban on political parties.

The Al-Arabiya report has not been confirmed by officials in Ankara.

Assad will make a speech on Monday about “current circumstances,” the state news agency said on Sunday, his first speech since April 16 and his third since the start of an uprising.

Reuters reported on Sunday that the Syrian army is deployed along the country’s northwestern border to slow the flow of refugees to Turkey, quoting witnesses and a human rights activist who said pro-Assad forces were attacking people helping the refugees fleeing the violence.

A report by Agence France-Presse on Sunday quoted activists who said the Syrian army had over the past two days set up checkpoints in the border areas and arrested dozens of people trying to escape the country.

Since Syrian troops, armor and helicopters moved in to the area of the town of Jisr al-Shughour near Turkey two weeks ago, thousands of Syrians have fled across the border. As of Sunday, Turkish officials said 10,114 Syrians were being housed in three refugee camps while an estimated 10,000 were camped out just inside Syria.

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Over the weekend, the Syrian state news agency SANA made no mention of the refugee crisis, instead focusing on “mass popular marches in the northern cities of Aleppo and Jisr al- Shughour [that] gathered on Saturday supporting national unity and rejecting foreign interferences in Syria.”

SANA continued, “A march of tens of thousands organized by popular bodies headed to Aleppo Citadel to express the participants’ full support to the national unity and their refusal to the foreign interference in the framework of Syrian youth gathering activities.”

Reuters contributed to this story.

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