Sunday, December 17, 2017

Turkish prime minister slams U.N. Security Council over Syria

ISTANBUL — Turkey's prime minister sharply criticized the U.N. Security Council on Saturday for its failure to agree on decisive steps to end Syria's civil war, as NATO ally Germany backed the Turkish interception of a Damascus-bound passenger jet earlier in the week.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an international conference in Istanbul that the world was witnessing a humanitarian tragedy in Syria.

"If we wait for one or two of the permanent members … then the future of Syria will be in danger," Erdogan said. Russia and China, two of the five permanent Security Council members, have vetoed resolutions that sought to put concerted pressure on Damascus to end the conflict and agree to a political transition.

Erdogan spoke as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held talks Saturday with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and U.N. envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. He told reporters after the meetings that Turkey was prepared to use force again if it was attacked, just as it did last week when a shell fired across the border from Syria killed five Turkish villagers.

"If a similar incident occurs again from the Syrian side, we will again take counter action," Davutoglu told reporters, while stressing that the border between Syria and Turkey is also the frontier of NATO.

One week after the shelling, Turkey intercepted a Syrian passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus and seized what it said was military equipment on board.

Syria denounced the move as air piracy, while Russia said the cargo was radar parts that complied with international law.

The state-run Syrian news agency SANA reported late Saturday that Syria decided to ban Turkish Airlines flights from Syrian airspace.

Germany's foreign minister backed Turkey on Saturday, saying Berlin would have acted the same way if it believed weapons were being transported to Syria over its airspace.

In Syria, activists said Saturday that army troops clashed with rebels on several fronts across the country, including in Aleppo, the largest city. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, said at least two people were killed in the shelling.

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