Salman, Erdogan express worry over Syria crisis

Salman, Erdogan express worry over Syria crisis

February 18, 2016
Tayyip Erdogan
Tayyip Erdogan

RIYADH — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone late on Tuesday and said attacks by Russia and Syrian government forces north of Aleppo were worrisome, sources at Erdogan’s office said.

Saying there could be no solution to the Syrian conflict with President Bashar Al-Assad remaining in power, the two leaders called for an end to strikes on civilians and the lifting of sieges.

They said the attacks were making the humanitarian situation in the region worse.

King Salman and Erdogan also discussed attacks by Kurdish militia PYD on the northern Syrian town of Azaz, close to the Turkish border, and the shelling by the Turkish army in response.

On Wednesday, Erdogan said that Turkey’s patience may run out over the crisis in Syria and it could be forced to take action.

Erdogan accused the United Nations of insincerity in calling on Turkey to do more to help Syrian refugees instead of taking action to prevent the bloodshed in its southern neighbor.

Russian war planes have been bombing around the Syrian city of Aleppo in support of a Syrian government offensive to recapture the city, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing to the Turkish border.

“There is a chance the new wave of refugees will reach 600,000 if air strikes continue. We are making preparations for it,” Erdogan said in a speech to a business forum in Ankara.

“We will show patience up to a point and then we’ll do what’s necessary. Our buses and planes are not waiting there in vain,” he said, adding that Turkey had information that Iran-backed forces in Syria were carrying out “merciless massacres”.

Turkey, already home to more than 2.6 million Syrian refugees, has long pushed for the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria to protect displaced civilians without bringing them over the border into Turkey.

Erdogan also said that Turkey does not intend to stop shelling Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in response to cross-border fire.

The rapid of advance of US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters, who are taking advantage of Russian air strikes in the region to seize territory near the Turkish border, has infuriated Ankara, which sees the insurgents as a terrorist organization.

“Today our rules of engagement may be just about responding to an armed attack against our country, but tomorrow if necessary those rules can be expanded to cover every threat,” Erdogan said in a speech broadcast live on television.

February 18, 2016