Turkey increasing diplomatic pressure on Syria, advisor says

Turkey increasing diplomatic pressure on Syria, advisor says

Turkey is stepping up pressure on neighbouring Syria for a peaceful resolution to the conflict there, an advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

"We are trying to convince the Syrian side to make rationalistic choices," Professor Nabi Avci said at a briefing of foreign journalists in Istanbul, DPA reported.

Avci is Erdogan's former chief policy advisor and a newly elected member of parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won a third consecutive term on Sunday.

Avci emphasized Turkey's close relationship with Syria and said that Ankara was working behind the scenes to urge the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to refrain from violence and undertake necessary reforms.

"Issues having such heavy psychological baggage cannot be talked about in public," Avci said, adding that a military intervention by Turkey was not on the agenda.

Assad's regime has cracked down harshly on anti-government protesters since March, when pro-democracy activists began calling for him to step down. At least 1,300 people have since been killed and more than 10,000 detained, human rights groups say.

Erdogan, believed to be one of the few remaining leaders who has open communication with Assad, recently issued his harshest critique of the regime so far, calling the crackdown on protesters "inhumane".

The Turkish premier met Wednesday with Syrian presidential envoy Hassan Turkmani to discuss issues in Turkish-Syrian relations, including the recent influx of close to 9,000 refugees who have crossed the border into Turkey out of fears for their safety.

Calling Turkey "an island of stability" in a region currently rocked by the unrest of the so-called "Arab Spring", Avci said Ankara sought to assist neighbouring countries undergoing change.

"We can help in the peaceful transition of these regimes. We don't want to use the word 'model', but (Turkey) can be an inspiration," he said.

Regarding the long-running dispute over the reunification of the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Avci sounded less hopeful, saying time was running out and that Northern Cyprus might reach the point of demanding international recognition as a state.

"I'm afraid we are coming step by step to that stage," Avci said.

Cyprus has been divided into an internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a Greek-inspired coup.

While the Greek Cypriot part of the island joined the European Union in 2004, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey.

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