Turkey calls on Syrian opposition to unite
Turkey has called on all Syrian opposition groups to unite under the banner of the Syrian National Council, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters Monday, ahead of the second Friends of Syria contact group meeting in Istanbul, dpa reported.
"We've given a firm and consistent message, they have to take on board all groups representing all walks of life in Syria," he said.
The spokesman confirmed that Turkey and Qatar, which are jointly organizing the April 1 meeting, had invited all known Syrian opposition groups, but cautioned that there was still work to be done to create a united opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"It's a learning process; there has been no opposition political movement in Syria for the past 80 years. We can't expect them to learn it all on day one - it takes time," said the spokesman.
Turkey on Monday shuttered its embassy in the Syrian capital, Damascus, reported state news agency Anatolian. The Turkish consulate in Aleppo remained open.
Meanwhile, commenting on talk of a possible buffer or humanitarian zone to be created on the Turkish-Syrian border, the spokesman confirmed that as yet there was no concrete proposal. But the situation would change in the event of a "national emergency" such as a huge influx of refugees from Syria into Turkey, he added
He confirmed that existing refugee camps and those under construction in Turkey could probably accommodate about 45,000 people.
However, he cautioned that this figure was considerably higher than the 17,000 currently housed and that 45,000 could not be accommodated in the short term.
Of those refuges currently in Turkey, about 300 are deserters from the Syrian military, including 10 generals and 19 colonels, he said. But he was unable to confirm how many of them were active members of the opposition Free Syrian Army.