Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday became the second leader of an Islamic country to call on embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, a former close ally, to cede power for the sake of peace in his country.
“Without spilling any more blood, without causing any more injustice, for the sake of peace for the people, the country and the region, finally step down,” Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling AK Party.
Ankara has been increasingly critical of Syria's brutal 8-month crackdown on anti-government protesters. Tensions between Syria and Turkey have once again run high after three buses carrying Turkish pilgrims to Turkey from Saudi Arabia were attacked at a check point in Syria on Monday. Two Turkish citizens were wounded in the attack.
“If you want to see someone who has fought until death against his own people, just look at Nazi Germany, just look at Hitler, at [Benito] Mussolini, at Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania,” Erdogan said. “If you can not draw any lessons from them, then look at the Libyan leader who was killed just 32 days ago in a manner none of us would wish for and who used the same expression you used.”
The first ruler of an Islamic country to urge al-Assad to step down was Jordan's King Abdullah, who on November 14 in an interview with the BBc said: "Bashar (al-Assad) would step down if he had the interest of his country at heart. He would also reach out and create a new phase of Syrian political life.”
Damascus has been facing mounting international pressure to end the unrest. The United Nations says the crackdown has resulted in more than 3,500 deaths.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday called Syria's crackdown on protesters “appalling and unacceptable” as he declared world powers will do as much as possible to heap further pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's government.