Turkey and the U.S. increasing pressure on Syria ahead of international conference

By David Kashi -- Medill News Service  |  May 16, 2013 at 5:18 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 16 -- President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday reinforced their support for strengthening Syrian opposition forces, calling on the international community to work together to resolve the conflict in Syria.

“There is no magic formula for dealing with an extraordinarily violent and difficult situation like Syria,” Obama said at a joint press conference at the Rose Garden, filled with U.S and Turkish journalists.

Obama said that the U.S. and Turkey need to “continue to try to mobilize the entire international community to put more and more pressure on (Syrian President Bashar) Assad so that he recognizes that he is no longer legitimate and that he needs to go,” Obama said.

Turkey, which shares a 500-mile border with Syria, has been affected by the conflict: Mass emigration of Syrian refugees into Turkey as well as the recent car bombings that killed 51 people in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli.

These recent attacks are just the latest instance of violence that has stretched into Turkey and are said to be linked to Syrian intelligence forces.

Both Obama and Erdogan said they want a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis that will take into account the multiple ethnic and religious groups to form what Obama called “a stable democratic Syria.”

“It is not going to be something that the United States does by itself and I don’t think anybody in the region including the prime minister [Erdogan] would think U.S. unilateral action in and of themselves would bring about a better outcome inside of Syria,” Obama said.

Erdogan agreed on the need for support of the opposition forces.

“Let me tell you, ending this bloody process in Syria and meeting the legitimate demands of its people by establishing a new government are two areas where we are in full agreement with the United States,” Erdogan said.

When asked about his “red line” for Syria of the use of chemical weapons, Obama said that he reserves the right to take additional steps, whether diplomatic or military, in relation to Assad’s use of unconventional weapons.

“Apart form chemical weapons we know that tens of thousands of people are being killed with artillery and mortars and that the humanitarian crisis and the slaughter that is taking place by itself is sufficient to prompt strong international action,” the president said.

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