Critical meeting in Damascus

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pretoria - Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has arrived in Syria and is meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the capital Damascus.

Davutoglu is there to convey Turkey's views and messages regarding the crisis in that country.

Earlier, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would shape upcoming processes according to the response it saw from Syria during Davutoglu's visit.

"We do not see Syria as a foreign problem. Syria is our domestic problem because we have an 850-km border with this country. We have historical and cultural ties, we have kinship," said Erdogan.

Erdogan said therefore, Turkey could never be just a spectator of what was going on in Syria, but on the contrary, Turkey had to hear the voices and do what was necessary.

Over 7 000 Syrians are reportedly staying in tent sites in southern Turkey as they escaped from the violence in their country. Hundreds of people have been killed during pro-democracy protests in Syria since January 2011.

On Monday, US Ambassador in Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, met with Ibrahim Kalin, chief advisor to Erdogan, within the scope of the consultations on Syria. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also spoke on the phone with Davutoglu, discussing the ongoing violence and security operations in Syria.

Meanwhile, South Africa has called on the Syrian government to continue to work for an inclusive dialogue among the people of Syria and to speed up the reform process.

"This dialogue should seek to meet the genuine aspirations of the Syrians. Accordingly, we welcomed the announcement by President Assad to allow for multi-party democracy in Syria... We also appeal to other actors inside Syria to participate in these efforts," said South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim.

He was speaking in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, on Monday after meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Fayssal Mikdad.

South Africa will be joining Brazil and India (IBSA) on a working visit to Syria in a collective effort to further understand the situation and to also communicate a message to the Syrian government.

Ebrahim appealed to Mikdad that the media should have free access in Syria because "we believe this would help to have more objective views on the developments."

Underscoring the importance of Syria in the Middle East region and its crucial role in the Middle East Process, Ebrahim said South Africa supported the Presidential Statement issued by the United Nations Security Council last week, focusing on issues of human rights in Syria.

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