Turkish PM slams UN Security Council over Syria

Associated Press
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures before Turkey's World Cup qualifying soccer match against Romania at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. (AP Photo)
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures before Turkey's World Cup qualifying soccer match against Romania at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. (AP Photo)

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 the 19-month civil war in Syria.

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," said Erdogan, according to an official translator.

Russia and China — two of the five permanent members of the Security Council — 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 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was meeting with Arab and European leaders amid growing tensions between Turkey and its southern neighbor Syria.

Davutoglu held talks early Saturday with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and was due to meet later with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and the U.N.'s envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

On Wednesday, 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.

Activists said Saturday army troops have clashed with rebel units on several fronts around the country where a peaceful uprising against the regime of President Bashar Assad last year became a bloody civil war. More than 32,000 people have been killed since the revolt started in March 2011, according to activists. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the fighting that has devastated whole neighborhoods in Syria's cities and towns.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said Saturday regime forces were pounding the rebel stronghold of Homs in central Syria with mortars and artillery. The southern province of Daraa, the birthplace of the revolt, also sustained shelling by the Syrian army throughout Saturday. Fighting between army troops and rebels raged around Idlib province and in and around the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest city and a former business hub.

Earlier, Syria's state-run news agency reported that Damascus supported a proposal by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to find a "mechanism of direct security communication between Syria and Turkey."

SANA reported that Syrian government officials and Russia's ambassador in Damascus discussed ways to establish a joint Syrian-Turkish security committee that would "control the security situation on both sides of the border in the framework of respecting the national sovereignty of the two countries."

Turkey has made no comment on the proposal, and it is unclear whether Moscow has presented it to the Turkish government yet.

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Barbara Surk in Beirut contributed to this report.

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