UN must bolster observer mission to Syria: Turkey PM
The UN should bolster its mission to Syria with up to 3,000 observers to give a full picture of the situation in the country, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
“We need 1,000, 2,000, maybe 3,000 observers, a major mission so they can visit the whole country and see what is happening,” Erdogan said at a joint press conference with Italian Premier Mario Monti during a visit to Rome.
“We support the (UN and Arab League envoy Kofi) Annan plan but if someone were to ask me what my hopes are, I would say I have lost hope,” he added.
There are currently around 50 observers based in various cities touched by the violence, with their number due to rise to around 300 in the coming weeks.
“What can 50 observers do? They can’t visit even a small part of a region of the country,” Erdogan said.
The deadly unrest in Syria has persisted despite a tenuous UN-backed ceasefire put into effect on April 12, which the observers are tasked with monitoring, amid reports that security forces are continuing to kill civilians.
“We have not managed to reach the solution we want. The UN Security Council should maybe take different steps,” Erdogan added.
The Syrian government held parliamentary elections Monday amid the violence, sparking criticism from the UN which said it had failed to involve all parties.
“We don’t think these were real elections… These elections were managed. I hope that the will of the Syrian people will win out, little by little,” he told reporters.
Turkey, which has a more than 900-kilometre (565-mile) border with Syria, hosts some 23,000 refugees who fled the Damascus regime’s deadly crackdown as well as a large opposition community and rebels who defected from the army.
In April, the conflict risked spilling into Turkey when four Syrian refugees and two Turks were wounded by gunfire fired from across the border, an attack which prompted questions over whether Erdogan should ask NATO to intervene.
“I have never said that Turkey is ready to ask for NATO intervention,” the premier said Tuesday.
“If there were some kind of attack on our borders, naturally article five would apply,” he said, referring to a NATO clause which stipulates that an attack against a NATO member is considered an attack against all members.
The UN estimates that well over 9,000 people have died in the 14-month uprising while rights groups have put the number at more than 11,000.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon warned Tuesday that world powers were racing against time to prevent all-out civil war in Syria.
Monti called for “united action” and said the problem in Syria was “very worrying”. He said a cabinet meeting later on Tuesday would approve the dispatch of 15 unarmed Italian soldiers to take part in the UN mission.