Syria on Monday warned Turkey against "inflaming" unrest in the country, where more than 3,000 people are estimated to have died in six months of protests against President Bashar Al-Assad.
Buthaina Shaaban, media adviser to the Syrian president, who has repeatedly promised reforms, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that "armed gangs" were responsible for the violence. "We had the best relations, as you know, and therefore we expected Turkey to support the march for pluralism and democracy in Syria rather than give statements that are helping to inflame the situation in Syria and support the armed gangs there," she said.
Shaaban is touring Malaysia and Indonesia – two major Southeast Asian Muslim countries – to seek international support for Al-Assad's regime. Kuala Lumpur has cultivated close ties with the Al-Assad government, with some 220 Malaysian students studying in Syria. Both countries are members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
But Turkey, formerly an Al-Assad ally, has kept constant pressure on Damascus by hosting gatherings of Syrian dissidents and repeatedly calling on the regime to introduce reforms. Turkey has expressed frustration with Al-Assad for failing to listen to the Syrian people, whose almost daily pro-democracy rallies have been met with violent repression at a cost of more than 3,000 lives, according to the UN.
Last month, Turkey stopped a shipload of weapons destined for Syria, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that his government would announce sanctions against its neighbour.
Shaaban also said "some countries" were arming and financing armed groups to incite sectarian violence aimed at splitting the country. "The problem we’re facing is that there are other parties who are financing and arming groups in Syria that are introducing sectarian violence... in an attempt to tear the country apart," she said.