Turkish PM due in Saudi Arabia for Syria talks
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will travel to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, when he is expected to discuss recent developments in Syria Today`s Zaman reported
Erdoğan's office said the prime minister, who is currently on an official visit to China, will pay an official visit to Saudi Arabia between April 12 and 14. The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Turkey will meet to discuss Syria on Friday, a Saudi official told Reuters on Tuesday, in a mark of accelerating diplomacy on a crisis in which both regional powers have condemned President Bashar al-Assad.
"The Syrian issue is top of the agenda," the official told Reuters in confirming that Erdoğan would hold talks with King Abdullah in Riyadh at the end of the week. A Turkish newspaper said Erdoğan would fly there directly on Thursday on his way home from an official visit to China.
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter has led Arab efforts to isolate Assad over the violent repression of an uprising that the United Nations says has killed 9,000 people. Turkey, a former friend to the Syrian president, has been angered by a flood of refugees fleeing the Syrian army and by shooting across its border on Monday that wounded five people.
Both predominantly Sunni Muslim in religion, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are both sympathetic to Syria's Sunni majority, which complains of oppression at the hands of Assad, a member of the Alawite sect and a long-time ally of Shiite Iran.
Turkey's Hürriyet newspaper, citing officials in Ankara, said Erdoğan would tell the Saudi king that Arab countries must take the lead in coordinated international measures against the Syrian government, which faces a deadline this week to comply with an internationally brokered cease-fire.
The newspaper added that Erdoğan might then travel on to Moscow to meet with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Like China, Russia has resisted international efforts to pressure Assad into acceding to opposition demands, though it has supported the cease-fire.
Saudi Arabia condemned what it described as Syria's failure to comply with the peace plan negotiated by United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan by not pulling its forces out of cities on Tuesday. "The non-compliance with the plan ... reveals the inflexibility of the Syrian regime and its disregard for commitments to Arab and international bodies," Information Minister Abdelaziz Khoja was quoted as saying by al-Madina newspaper.