The foreign minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu has arrived in Syria to convince President Bashar al-Assad to halt his regime’s brutal crackdown against anti-government protesters.
Turkey, which has had good relations with Damascus, has grown appalled by the ever-escalating death toll in Syria -- at least 1,600 civilians, perhaps as many as 2,000 civilians have been killed after five months of protests and untold thousands of others have been detained.
Turkish officials have warned Assad that he faces a “Saddam-like” isolation if he does not desist from killing civilians.
Officials from the governments of India, South Africa, and Brazil are also in Damascus to seek to end the violence.
Hilary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, asked Davutoglu to pressure Assad into withdrawing his military operations against his people and immediately release political prisoners.
However, the Syrian government – on the surface at least – has vowed it will not accept foreign interference in internal matters and has even criticized Ankara for not considering that “armed groups” are behind the unrest in Syria.
Over the past week, Damascus deployed troops into the cities of Hama and Deir al-Zor to quell uprisings.
Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Assad, reportedly said: "If Davutoglu is coming to Syria to deliver a decisive message, then he will hear even more decisive words in relation to Turkey's position.”
However, Turkey has insisted that Syrian affairs are of great importance to Ankara due to the long border they share. Indeed, thousands of Syrians who fled Assad’s tanks are currently in Turkey as refugees.
The countries are also important trade partners.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the brutality of Syrian forces in the killing of innocent civilians.
“The process from now on will take shape according to the response [Assad] will give and the practices on the ground,” Erdogan said Saturday.
“Our patience is running thin… We do not see the Syria issue as an external one. It is an internal issue for us. We share a border of 850 kilometers, we have kinship, historical and cultural ties and … we cannot just watch what is happening there.”
Another prominent Mideast power, Saudi Arabia, has already condemned Assad for his brutal crackdown. The Saudis, along with Kuwait, and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors to Damascus.
"Turkey will have to seriously consider its ties with Syria," said Bahadir Dincer, Middle East expert at the International Strategic Research Organization in Ankara, according to reports.