Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of resorting to a new strategy of “ethnic cleansing” to create a safe zone for his Alawite sect, in an interview published Wednesday.
“What concerned us about the Banias incident is that (Assad) has switched to a new strategy to reinstate influence by subjecting a certain area to ethnic cleansing,” Davutoglu told the Hurriyet newspaper.
He was referring to the Mediterranean city of Banias where rights monitors say dozens of people were killed in attacks in a Sunni neighborhood condemned by the international community.
“This is a so-called Plan B strategy based on sectarian clashes and opening a space or corridor for a certain sect,” he said, suggesting Assad was trying to create an all-Alawite zone stretching from the embattled city of Homs to Lebanon.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he was appalled by the photographs of children massacred by the regime and called on the U.N. Security Council to “urgently convene” over the Banias killings.
Davutoglu said Banias was occupying a critical location in the corridor extending to Lebanon.
“This is a dangerous game. This is an ethnic cleansing,” he said.
“The goal is to intimidate the residents and to force them to leave. In fact, the majority of one million refugees who fled to Lebanon is Sunnis.”
Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, has dominated Syria for decades.
Sunni-majority Turkey cut contact with Damascus after the regime's deadly crackdown on opponents in a revolt erupted in March 2011.
Ankara has sided with the rebels fighting to topple Assad's regime, taken in around 400,000 refugees as well as army defectors and repeatedly called on the international community to act on the unfolding crisis.
Assad’s plan B is ‘ethnic cleansing’ says Turkish FM