- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2012

SEOUL — President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed during a nearly two-hour meeting Sunday to beef up “nonlethal” aid to Syrian opponents of the regime of dictator Bashar Assad.

Mr. Obama said that he and Mr. Erdogan “worked on a common agenda in terms of how we can support both humanitarian efforts” as well as ways to persuade Mr. Assad to step down. Both leaders said they would use a scheduled April 1 meeting in Turkey for “friends of Syria” to step up efforts to provide humanitarian aid to opponents of the regime.

Ben Rhodes, a national security aide to Mr. Obama, said later that such aid likely would include medical supplies and communications equipment.

“It’s important to the opposition as they’re formulating their vision of an inclusive and democratic Syria to have the ability to communicate,” Mr. Rhodes said.

The Obama administration is cognizant of the importance of social media and other communications tools in helping to topple dictatorships during the “Arab Spring” across the region.

Mr. Erdogan noted that about 17,000 refugees have fled Syria into Turkey since the bloody crackdown began more than a year ago.

“We cannot be spectators,” Mr. Erdogan said.

Critics of Mr. Obama’s policy have accused him of being too passive as thousands of Syrians are being killed by Mr. Assad’s forces.