Syria defiant despite increased regional pressure
Turkey's foreign minister pushed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today to end the violence. But Syria, which launched more assaults today, has rarely yielded to such pressure in the past.
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In the latest signal of regional displeasure with the Syrian authorities, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled to Damascus today to deliver a stern warning that Ankara has “run out of patience” with the harsh crackdown that has left more than 2,000 dead since the uprising began.
While Turkey has taken the lead in speaking out against Syria’s handling of its internal crisis, Arab countries have broken their silence for the first time to express disapproval of the ongoing violence.
But the increased regional pressure on Damascus may not yield immediate results, analysts say. Over the past decade, the Syrian regime has rarely succumbed to external pressure and instead has earned a reputation for deftly playing off one side against another.
"The regime will try and stretch out the conversation as long as they can. You can't try and divide your neighbors if you stop talking to them," says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Meanwhile, Damascus could let PKK members out of their jails," he adds, referring to the Kurdish group struggling for autonomy in southeast Turkey, which has been designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, Syria, and Western nations. (Editor's note: The original version misquoted Mr. Tabler.)
On Tuesday, as India, South Africa, and Brazil joined Turkey in sending representatives to Damascus to push for an end to violence, Syrian tank assaults killed another 30 people, according to the opposition-run Syrian National Organization for Human Rights.
Saudis decry Syrian 'killing machine'
On Saturday, the Gulf Cooperation Council – a regional bloc that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – expressed concerns over the “mounting violence and the excessive use of force which resulted in killing and wounding large numbers.”
On Sunday, the Arab League called on Syria to “immediately halt all acts of violence.”
The most significant criticism, however, came from Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah describing the Syrian regime as a “killing machine.”
“The future of Syria is between two options: Either it chooses wisdom willingly or drifts into the depths of chaos and loss, may God forbid,” he said, adding that the Saudi ambassador to Damascus was being withdrawn for consultations.