Turkey is continuing to pressure its neighbor and ally Syria to implement more democratic reforms, suggesting growing impatience in Ankara over the intransigence of President Bashar al-Assad.
According to reports, the Turkish government dispatched an envoy to Damascus with a letter for Assad demanding that he remove his brother Maher al-Assad from his job as commander of the army's dreaded Fourth Division and Presidential Guards.
Maher al-Assad, sometimes called “Thug in chief” is likely the most feared man in Syria and has engineered several violent crackdowns against protestors who seek to topple his older brother’s regime, especially in towns near the Turkish border.
Recently, Maher’s soldiers sealed off the border with Turkey, burnt down stores and bakeries that had provided food to Syrians seeking refuge in a scorched-earth policy designed to prevent people from fleeing the country.
According to Reuters, a senior Turkish official has warned Assad that he has less than one week to start implementing political reforms or Syria will face foreign intervention.
Ersat Hurmuzlu, a top aide to Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, told the al-Arabiya channel in Dubai: The demands in this field will be for a positive response to these issues within a short period that does not exceed a week. The opposite of this, it would not be possible to offer any cover for the leadership in Syria because there is the danger ...that we had always been afraid of, and that is foreign intervention.
Turkey’s provocative criticism of Assad’s regime seems to be a breakthrough, as most Arab nations have been reluctant to go against him.
At least 10,000 Syrian refugees are currently being sheltered in Turkey, with many thousands more seeking to go there.