Turkish premier slams Security Council over Syria

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ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister sharply criticized the U.N. Security Council on Saturday for its failure to agree on decisive steps to end Syria’s civil war, as NATO ally Germany backed the Turkish interception of a Damascus-bound passenger jet earlier in the week.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an international conference in Istanbul that the world was witnessing a humanitarian tragedy in Syria.

“If we wait for one or two of the permanent members … then the future of Syria will be in danger,” Erdogan said, according to an official interpreter.

Russia and China, two of the five permanent Security Council members, have vetoed resolutions that sought to put concerted pressure on Damascus to end the conflict and agree to a political transition.

Erdogan called for a reform of the Security Council, which he called an “unequal, unfair system” that didn’t represent the will of most countries.

He spoke as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Arab and European leaders amid growing tensions between Turkey and neighboring Syria.

Davutoglu held talks early Saturday with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and U.N. envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. He told reporters after the meetings that Turkey was prepared to use force again if it was attacked, just as it did last week when a shell fired across the border from Syria killed five Turkish villagers.

“If a similar incident occurs again from the Syrian side, we will again take counter action,” Davutoglu told reporters, while stressing that the border between Syria and Turkey is also the frontier of NATO.

One week after the shelling, Turkey intercepted a Syrian passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus and seized what it said was military equipment on board.

Syria denounced the move as air piracy, while Russia said the cargo was radar parts that complied with international law.

Germany’s foreign minister backed Turkey on Saturday, saying Berlin would have acted the same way if it believed weapons were being transported to Syria over its airspace.

“It’s not just about weapons. Weapons need to be steered. Weapons need to be delivered,” Westerwelle said. “These are all things that don’t need to be tolerated.”

But he cautioned the situation between Turkey and Syria could quickly escalate out of control.

“The danger of a ‘wildfire’ is very big,” said Westerwelle, who also met briefly with Abdelbaset Sieda, head of the Syrian National Council opposition group. “If that happens, then this can become a devastating conflict for the whole region.”

In Syria, activists said Saturday that army troops clashed with rebels on several fronts across the country, including in Aleppo, the largest city.

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