Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that he was doubtful that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would fulfill his pledge to the Russian proposal for Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control, saying that Assad was buying time for new "massacres. Today`s Zaman reported"
Russia proposed a plan last week, which the United States also accepted, that would put the Assad regime's chemical stockpile under international control before its eventual dismantling. The initiative -- also cautiously endorsed by Britain and France -- appeared to offer a way out of a crisis that raised the prospect of a US-led military action against Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack last month.
The Syrian regime admitted for the first time on Tuesday that it has chemical weapons and agreed to a Russian proposal to hand those weapons over to international control, but the Turkish government is skeptical.
"The Assad regime has not lived up to any of its pledges; it has won time for new massacres and continues to do so," Erdogan said in a speech in İstanbul. "We are doubtful that the promises regarding chemical weapons will be met."
Turkey, which is greatly affected by the war in Syria, welcomed a Russian proposal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons to international control, but said this should not be a tactical move to get out of taking action to end the crisis in Syria.
Turkey's doubts that the proposal could overshadow the recent use of chemical weapons, which, according to the US intelligence assessment, killed more than 1,400 people -- one-third of whom were children -- on Aug. 21.
"When chemical weapons are used it is considered a crime, but when other weapons are used this is not a crime? Killing with tanks and planes is not included. Have a heart! It is hard to understand this. Death is death. It is not important what weapon -- chemical or otherwise -- was used. We should put all the weapons used in Syria in the same category. The Syrian regime should be accountable for these deaths," Erdogan said.
"Let's be fair. Who is going to be accountable for these killings? Who will pay the price for the death of 106,000 people and 200,000 missing people?" asked Erdogan.
President Abdullah Gul said on Wednesday that the proposal is an important development and that Ankara is aware of the fact that Syria has a large stockpile of chemical weapons. He added that Turkey would welcome the total eradication of chemical weapons in Syria; however, Gul warned that the plan should not be a "tactical move," saying the US should not view the situation solely as one involving chemical weapons but should also recognize the broader situation in the Syrian civil war, where over 100,000 people have been killed so far.
"The Assad regime is continuing to gain more time. Seven million people have fled from the country. We never closed our doors to our Syrian brothers and will never do so. Our open-door policy will continue for the people coming from Syria," said Erdogan, noting that Turkey, one of the host countries carrying a large part of the Syrian refugee burden, has already spent $2 billion on the Syrians, whose situation became a cause for concern with the onset of winter and the uncertainty of the civil war. "We are receiving support from around. So far we have only received $140 million," said Erdogan.
"[The main opposition Republican People's Party] CHP accuses us of being in favor of war. I ask now: When 110,000 people were killed, where were you? Women and children are dying, where are you? Main opposition party, where are you? Now, shamelessly, they are accusing us of calling for a war. The main opposition is siding with the [Syrian] regime, but we are siding with the oppressed. This is the difference between us," said Erdogan.
"According to the CHP, when Assad kills, this is something good," said Erdogan, adding that 53 people were killed and as many as 100 injured in the bombing attacks in Reyhanli on May 11 -- an incident the Syrian regime was claimed to have played a role in. A car bomb exploded outside Reyhanli City Hall and another went off outside a post office. Reyhanli is a main hub for Syrian refugees and opposition activity.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said in an interview on Thursday that US Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on surrendering chemical weapons removed the possibility of an intervention in Syria.
Until quite recently, the clocks were ticking on a possible intervention in Syria after international pressure against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime mounted due to the alleged chemical attack in Syria; however, a recent Russian proposal and the stance the US has taken signal that the big powers are deciding to push instead for a diplomatic solution to the situation in Syria rather than a military intervention.
Turkey has suggested that military action without a political strategy would be fruitless and has openly called for a broader military operation against the Syrian regime instead of "hit-and-run" strikes, which it says will probably worsen the chaotic situation in the war-torn country rather than yield real results.
Turkey has said it would be willing to join an international coalition to take action against the Syrian regime or to opt for any other option decided by such an international coalition to punish the Syrian regime for the latest chemical attack.