Turkey still sees chance for peaceful transition in Syria

AFP , Saturday 21 May 2011

Turkey said Saturday Syria's turmoil could still be resolved peacefully if Damascus initiates "shock reforms" and stops brutal crackdowns on protesters, warning that "time is running out."

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made the appeal after rights activists said that 44 people were killed in demonstrations Friday, in the latest episode of bloody unrest sweeping Syria since March.

"There is still a chance for a stable and peaceful transition in Syria" if "comprehensive, shock reforms" are initiated "at a pace and within a scope that will satisfy the people," Davutoglu said on NTV television.

"Time is running out," he warned.

"If they stick to the method of using the security forces to suppress the protests without introducing concrete reforms... there could be really negative consequences that would sadden us all," he added.

Turkey, whose ties with its southern neighbour have flourished in recent years, has piled up pressure on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to initiate reform, but has stopped short of calling for his departure.

Wary of protracted instability in Syria, Ankara is concerned notably over a possible wave of refugees and the future role of Syria's Kurds, who have been a solid support base for an armed group from Turkey's own Kurdish community that has waged a bloody separatist campaign since 1984.

Last month, Ankara sent envoys to Damascus to press Assad to take steps for democratisation, offering also expertise for political and economic reforms.

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