Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday vowed his country will not remain silent over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s “crimes,” as Washington condemned a missile strike on Aleppo that left 58 dead.
“Every day, a large number of innocent children and women fall dead in Syria,” Erdogan, a key backer of Syria’s opposition, said in a speech in the United Arab Emirates.
“We will not remain silent on those committing crimes against their people ... We will not remain silent on the brutal dictator in Syria,” Erdogan said.
Turkey’s southern neighbor Syria has been locked in a 23-month-long conflict in which the UN estimates more than 70,000 people have been killed.
Early in the revolt against al-Assad regime, Turkey broke ties with Damascus and led international calls for his ouster. Turkey has since backed the uprising against al-Assad by offering shelter to defectors from his army and hosting opposition meetings.
About 200,000 Syrian refugees have fled the conflict in their country for Turkey. On Feb. 15, al-Assad’s government sent a letter to the UN blasting Turkey’s “destructive” role in the conflict.
Damascus has systematically blamed foreign powers, key among them Turkey, the West and Gulf countries, for the war in Syria.
Erdogan’s statement came as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, updated its death toll from a powerful missile attack on Friday in Aleppo, saying it killed at least 58 people, among them 36 children.
Washington condemned on Saturday “in the strongest possible terms” al-Assad’s regime for the strike.
The army’s deadly missile strikes were “the latest demonstrations of the Syrian regime’s ruthlessness and its lack of compassion for the Syrian people it claims to represent”, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Nuland repeated Washington’s call for al-Assad to step down.
“The Assad regime has no legitimacy and remains in power only through brute force,” Nuland said.
“The United States sees no indication that the brave Syrian people fighting against this aggression will accept these regime leaders, with the blood of so many Syrians on their hands, as part of a transition governing authority,” she added.