Syrian President Bashar al- Assad on Tuesday showed no sign of backing down from a deadly crackdown on protesters despite mounting pressure from Turkey and other countries.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met al-Assad in Damascus to deliver a warning as other countries also sent envoys to increase the pressure on the Syrian leader. Davutoğlu and al-Assad held three-hour talks between delegations from their countries, and then had a face-to-face meeting that lasted another three hours, a Turkish diplomat said.
Envoys from India, Brazil and South Africa also headed to Damascus to press for an end to the bloodshed, which activists say has killed about 1,700 people since March.
While Davutoğlu met with al-Assad, Syrian rights activists reported 21 deaths, including 17 people killed by security forces in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, the scene of a deadly army assault Sunday that killed 42 people.
Tuesday's death toll included two people killed and several wounded in the northwestern Idlib province, which borders Turkey, activists said. Tanks stormed the town of Binnish, 30 kilometers from the Turkish border, at dawn, according to witnesses.
Davutoğlu was dispatched to Damascus to convey to al-Assad a stern message from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said over the weekend that Ankara's patience was running out with the brutal assaults on protesters and Damascus' foot-dragging on democratic reform.
Davutoğlu received a chilly welcome in the Syrian capital, with only a deputy foreign minister greeting him at the airport on arrival. In Ankara, EU Minister Egemen Bağış voiced hope that Davutoğlu "will return [from Damascus] after making important contributions to peace."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had asked Davutoğlu to press Syria to "return its military to the barracks," while Damascus has said the minister would himself "receive a firm message" during his visit.
The international community lacks a strong leverage to cajole al-Assad into reform as members of his regime remain united, unlike in Egypt and Libya, where cracks appeared amid the ruling classes. India's U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said his country's representative was scheduled to arrive in Damascus on Tuesday and will join representatives from Brazil and South Africa for a meeting with Syria's foreign minister to appeal for an end to the crackdown and to promote democratic reforms.
Russia also reaffirmed its call for an end to violence and the launch of deep-rooted political reforms, during a phone call between the two countries' foreign ministers. Syrian activists meanwhile used their Facebook page, Syrian Revolution 2011, to invite Davutoğlu to "come and pray in the mosque" of the capital's Al-Midan area.
Syrian News Agency Claims Turkey's Foreign Minister Didn't Deliver Message
A Syrian news agency has claimed that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu did not convey any messages to President Bashar al-Assad during their meeting in Damascus and added that operations would continue.
SANA quoted al-Assad in the meeting saying that they would continue hunting down terrorist groups.
Turkey's Message to Syria Conveyed in Meeting with Al-Assad Only, Turkish FM Says
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the messages he conveyed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a Damascus meeting on Tuesday were those of Turkey only.
"I would like to express this openly and clearly: We have conveyed Turkey's messages only. As the foreign minister of Turkey, I could only pass on our government's views and talk only within that framework," Davutoğlu told reporters in the Turkish capital, in response to a question about whether he conveyed any U.S. messages to the Syrian president.
Davutoğlu said he passed to al-Assad a letter from Turkish President Abdullah Gul and relayed the messages of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a six and a half our meeting in Damascus.
"During our meeting, we have once again shared frankly and resolutely with our Syrian brothers our views on all issues," Davutoğlu said. And Mr. Assad expressed his own views in our tete-a-tete meeting and the gathering between the Turkish and Syrian delegations."
Davutoğlu said he also shared Turkey's views regarding steps needed to be taken to stop violent incidents, and to prevent confrontation between the Syrian people and the Syrian army.
"Our priority is to devise a way to end the bloodshed in Syria," he said. "Our only goal is to secure an environment where all Syrian people, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, could live in peace.
"We will continue to watch developments in Syria very closely. We hope that coming days and weeks will prove successful in maintaining peace and stability in the country with steps to secure political reforms that would meet the will of the Syrian people," Davutoğlu said.
Davutoglu Holds Telephone Conversations With Diplomatic Counterparts
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu informed some of his counterparts of his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Diplomatic sources said that Davutoğlu held telephone talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
He is also expected to hold phone talks with his British counterpart William Hague and the Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi.
Davutoğlu told reporters after returning to Ankara that he passed to al-Assad a letter from President Abdullah Gul and relayed the messages of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a six and a half our meeting in Damascus.
"Our priority is to devise a way to end bloodshed in Syria... We will continue to watch developments in Syria very closely," Davutoğlu said. "We hope that the coming days and weeks will prove successful in maintaining peace and stability in the country with steps to secure political reforms that would meet the will of the Syrian people."
Davutoglu Criticizes Main Opposition Over Syrian Policy Accusations
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu strongly rejected remarks by Turkey's main opposition leader who accused the government of "being a jobber of foreign powers" over Davutoğlu's contacts with the Syrian government.
"These statements are not the kind of statements that the leader of the main opposition party of the Turkish Republic could make. No government of the Turkish Republic and none of its foreign ministers have ever been 'a jobber' for another state," Davutoğlu said. "This is a most shameless accusation that goes beyond criticism and insults our state traditions," Davutoğlu told reporters after his return to Turkey from Damascus where he met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Davutoğlu said the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK, had never been a mouthpiece of a foreign state, adding, "We have always pursued the interests of our country and speak our mind in the name of it."
Government Spokesman Criticizes Operations in Syria
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bulent Arinc has said, "While the world expects the Syrian government to make democratic reforms in line with Syrian people's demands, large-scale operations resulted in civilian casualties in Syria. Neither timing nor method of those operations is unacceptable."
Following the Council of Ministers meeting, Arinc said,"Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu informed the Council of Ministers on developments in Syria. Syria is a neighboring and friendly country. Turkish and Syrian peoples share a common history, destiny and future. We attach great importance to the prosperity, tranquility and stability of Syria.
"Davutoglu will travel to Syria on Tuesday upon Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's directives," Arinc said. "He will explain Turkey's views and ideas in a determined way. Our attitude about developments in neighboring and friendly countries is clear. Syrian people's rightful demands should be met and democratic reforms should be carried out. However, while the world expects the Syrian government to make democratic reforms in line with the Syrian people's demands, large-scale operations resulted in civilian casualties in Syria. Neither timing nor method of those operations is unacceptable," he said.
"Government forces launched operations in big cities by using tanks and artillery. Those operations resulted in a number of civilian casualties. Such methods cannot be accepted. Their timing is also wrong. Because Ramadan is the holy month of Muslim people, we regret that hundreds of people including women and children lost their lives in Syria. We hope that Davutoglu's visit will yield positive results," he said.
Referring to the humanitarian tragedy in the Horn of Africa, Arinc told reporters, "An aid campaign has been launched with a government notice. So far, our people donated 19.67 million Turkish liras (nearly $11.5 million). The Red Crescent, the Directorate of Religious Affairs and the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency, or TIKA, sent 67 tons of food and 13 tons of medicine by two cargo planes of the Turkish Airlines."
Egypt's New FM to Make Visit to Turkey
Egypt's newly appointed Foreign Minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, is set to pay a visit to Turkey in his first foreign trip after assuming office on July 17, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The Egyptian foreign minister will arrive in the Turkish capital on Wednesday on a two-day visit in Ankara and Istanbul. He is scheduled to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and he is also expected to be received by President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Amr's talks in Turkey are expected to cover bilateral relations as well as latest regional developments.
Turkey Denounces Israeli Settlements in East Jerusalem
On Tuesday, Turkey denounced the Israeli government's decision to build more than 900 new settlements in the Har Home district of East Jerusalem.
In a written statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said:
"It is unacceptable. The Israeli government on the one hand makes calls to resume talks with the Palestinian side, while on the other hand disregarding all international calls [to stop building settlements] and continues [to build] illegal housing, further weakening the atmosphere of confidence between the parties," the statement said. "We once again call on Israel to act with awareness of its responsibilities stemming from international laws and invite Israel to put an end to its implementations aiming at changing the status of East Jerusalem."
The statement's release comes at a time when relations between the two countries are suffering due to the May 2010 Mavi Marmara raid in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish citizens. A UN panel is set to announce its inquiry report into the incident, while the Israeli Cabinet is considering issuing a formal apology to Turkey over the tragedy.
Turkish High Court Rejects Kurdish Defense Claim
The Supreme Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from a Kurdish man who objected to his sentence on the grounds that his "defense was restricted" because he was not permitted to defend himself in his mother tongue.
The court's penal department ruled against Suphan Delen, who was sentenced to 18 and a half years in prison by a court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır for being "a member of an illegal organization" and "carrying explosive devices," saying the convicted man could speak Turkish, nullifying the need for him to defend himself in Kurdish.
The appeals court said the right to use an interpreter under the European Convention on Human Rights and Code of Penal Procedure, or CMUK, was necessary only when the court could not understand the language used by the accused and vice versa.
Delen, however, is a Turkish national who was born in Turkey and educated in the Turkish language, the court said, adding that the accused gave his testimony in Turkish and did not have any problem understanding and speaking the language.
As part of its rejection, the penal department ruled to uphold Delen's sentence.
AK Party: Steady as a Rock
An economy meeting took place under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ministers of Justice & Development Party, AK, continue to say "we are steady as a rock." Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said: "Turkey is on a firm footing, but it is not an island. Of course there may be an interaction, but it is important that a long-lasting destruction will not be experienced."
Turks Defend Shops Against Looting in London
The riots in London have spread to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham and Turks, carrying sticks, wait in front of the shops against looting, earning the admiration of the British people.
The protesters are looting shops, setting cars on fire and even rob people in broad daylight. One death has been reported and 14 injured in the incidents. So far, 525 people are under arrest.
The heroes of the incidents are the Turks in Dalston standing guard with sticks. The British media gave a broad place to Turks who managed to fought off the protesters who attacked their property.
Somalia Aid Packages Feeds 1,500 Families
Fifty tons of goods collected in the aid campaign for Somalia, under the leadership of the Sabah newspaper, reached Mogadishu. The goods will be enough for 1,500 families. The people of Somalia welcomed the planes with admiration and prayers. Distribution of the aid packages started immediately.