Turkey warns will take 'steps' if Syria mayhem doesn't end

AFP , Sunday 8 Apr 2012

Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns that if Al-Assad regime fails to stop the violence and withdraw tanks from the streets, Turkey will "implement steps"

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AFP)

Turkey's prime minister has warned of as yet unspecified "steps" if the government of neighbouring Syria fails to abide by an April 10 deadline to cease violence, local media reported on Sunday.

"We will patiently follow the process until April 10," Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying by daily Hurriyet.

But "we will implement steps" if violence does not stop after that, he added.

The Turkish premier did not specify what measures his government would take, but the mass influx of refugees fleeing the Syrian unrest has raised alarm in Ankara which has voiced support for the Syrian opposition.

Different scenarios are being floated by the press, including the setting up of a buffer zone along the border with Syria to protect refugees.

More than 9,000 people have died in Syria in more than a year of unrest, according to UN figures, as President Bashar al-Assad's regime has cracked down on protesters and armed rebels, drawing international condemnation.

Fighting has raged on despite Damascus accepting an April 10 deadline to withdraw forces from protest hubs as part of a ceasefire plan brokered by the UN and Arab League peace envoy, former UN chief Kofi Annan.

Nearly 130 people were reported killed across Syria on Saturday -- three days ahead of the deadline to cease fire and pull back.

The escalating violence has triggered a sharp surge in the number of Syrian refugees crossing into Turkey.

Last week saw a record number of some 2,800 Syrians enter Turkey in a 36-hour period to escape a helicopter-backed assault by Syrian troops.

The total number of refugees now in Turkish camps near the Syrian border exceeds 24,000, according to official figures provided by the Ankara government.

Turkey, a former ally to Damascus, has cut off contact with Assad.

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