Turkey plans new international initiative on Syria; Gulf states recall envoys


Turkey is preparing a new initiative with those countries who oppose the Syrian government, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, describing China’s and Russia’s veto of a U.N. resolution on Syria a “fiasco”.

“We are going to start a new initiative with those countries that stand by the people, not the Syrian government. We are preparing this,” Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling AK Party in Ankara, giving no further details on the initiative, according to Reuters.

“The process that occurred at the United Nations in relation to Syria is a fiasco for the civilized world,” he said.

A Russian-Chinese veto of an Arab-backed U.N. resolution on Syria caused outrage.

Moscow and Beijing were the only members of the 15-member U.N. Security Council to vote against the resolution backing an Arab League call for Assad to yield power and start a political transition. The double veto prompted unusually undiplomatic Western criticism.

For his part, the Turkish premier said the Security Council vote gave the “license to kill to the hands of the tyrant,” referring to his one-time friend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Erdogan said the veto power should be used responsibly without “giving green light to death.”

“The Syrian matter cannot be sacrificed to power struggle,” he added.

Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has been at the forefront of international criticism against the Damascus regime and has also become a haven for many Syrian opposition activists.

“We cannot remain silent to what is happening in Syria and we cannot turn our back on the Syrian people,” Erdogan said.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the six Gulf Cooperation Council states have decided to expel Syria’s envoys and withdraw their own from Damascus over the “mass slaughter” of civilians in Syria, a joint statement said.

“State members have decided to withdraw their ambassadors from Syria and ask at the same time for all the ambassadors of the Syrian regime to leave immediately,” a GCC statement said.

The statement condemned “mass slaughter against the unarmed Syrian people” during the nearly 11-month crackdown by President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

The six-member GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sharp Western criticism of the vetoes was “bordering on hysteria” and reaffirmed that it was wrong to blame Assad’s forces alone for the violence, according to AFP.

Lavrov landed in Damascus on Tuesday for talks with Assad.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is planning to fly to the United States on Wednesday and meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for further discussions on Syria, diplomatic sources told AFP.

In Syria, heavy shelling, sporadic machinegun fire and rocket explosions were heard in the central city of Homs on Tuesday as regime forces and rebels continued their conflict.

Syria’s government vowed it would keep hunting “terrorist groups until security and order are re-established in all neighborhoods of Homs.”