* Erdogan says U.N. Security Council inaction encouraging
* Syrian gov't forces hit rebels with air power, artillery
* Rebels establish fragile hold on town on Turkish border
* Turkey says will retaliate again if more border violations
By Nick Tattersall and Ece Toksabay
ISTANBUL, Oct 13 Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan rebuked the U.N. Security Council for inaction over
Syria on Saturday, saying the world body was repeating mistakes
that led to massacres in Bosnia in the 1990s.
President Bashar al-Assad's forces used air strikes and
artillery to bombard insurgents on several fronts in Syria, as
the 19-month-old conflict risks dragging in regional powers.
Turkey is increasingly entangled after intercepting a Syrian
airliner carrying what it said were Russian-made munitions for
the Syrian army, infuriating Moscow and Damascus. It has led
calls for intervention, including no-fly zones enforced by
foreign aircraft to stop deadly air raids by Assad's forces.
But there is little chance of U.N. support for robust
action. China insists any solution to Syria's crisis must come
from within while Russia has said many Syrians still support
Assad. Western nations meanwhile are loath to commit to any
military action that could touch off a regional sectarian war.
"The U.N. Security Council has not intervened in the human
tragedy that has been going on in Syria for 20 months, despite
all our efforts," Erdogan told a conference in Istanbul attended
by leaders including Arab League Secretary General Nabil
Elaraby. "There's an attitude that encourages, gives the green
light to Assad to kill tens or hundreds of people every day."
The bloodshed has worsened markedly in the past two months
although neither side has been able to gain a distinct
advantage, with government forces relying heavily on air power
and artillery to batter the rebels.
Combat has been reported nationwide but the crucial
strategic battles are being fought in an arc through western
Syria, where most of the population lives.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met U.N. special
envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle
and Libya's wartime rebel Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril to
discuss Syria on the sidelines of the Istanbul conference.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week Brahimi
would visit Syria soon to try to persuade Assad to call an
The Syrian government dispatched warplanes to attack
insurgent forces surrounding the Wadi-al-Dayf military barracks
near Maarat al-Numan in Idlib province, wounding 22 rebels, the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The rebels captured Maarat al-Numan this week, cutting the
main north-south highway linking Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, and
government forces will need to retake it in order to reinforce
and resupply Aleppo - Syria's largest city and commercial hub.
MEMORIES OF SREBRENICA
The U.N. Security Council, divided between Western powers on
one side and Russia and China on the other, has proved helpless
in halting a conflict which has spiralled into civil war and
killed more than 30,000 people.
Erdogan said a system which allowed one or two nations to
block intervention in such a grave humanitarian crisis was
inherently unjust, and that Syria would go down in history as a
U.N. failure much like Bosnia in the 1990s.
"How sad is that the United Nations is as helpless today as
it was 20 years ago when it watched the massacre of hundreds of
thousands of people in the Balkans, Bosnia and Srebrenica,"
Erdogan told the Istanbul conference.
The July 1995 massacre in Srebrenica was the worst on
European soil since World War Two, in which Dutch U.N.
peacekeepers abandoned what had been designated a U.N. safe
haven to advancing Bosnian Serb forces, who then killed 8,000
Muslim men and boys and bulldozed their corpses into pits.
Turkish officials had expressed hope they might be able to
persuade Moscow, which sold Syria $1 billion of arms last year,
to soften its opposition at the Security Council and that if it
succeeded, China would follow suit.
But relations between Ankara and Moscow sank to a new low on
Wednesday after Turkey forced down a passenger jet flying from
Moscow and publicly accused Russia of ferrying military
equipment to Assad's forces.
Russia has said there were no weapons on the plane and that
it was carrying a legal shipment of radar equipment.
Syria is banning Turkish civilian flights over its territory
as of midnight on Saturday, according to a Syrian Foreign
Ministry statement carried by state news agency SANA.
REBELS CONTROL BORDER TOWN, FOR NOW
Elsewhere on Syria's battlefronts on Saturday, government
forces rained mortar fire down on the opposition-held Khalidiya
neighbourhood of the city of Homs, the Observatory said.
Explosions were felt throughout the besieged district.
To the south of Damascus near Deraa - cradle of the uprising
which began with peaceful street rallies - Assad's troops and
rebels were fighting on the edge of the town of Maarba.
After four days of heavy fighting in the town of Azmarin on
the Turkish border, the rebels appeared to have a fragile hold.
"Praise be the town is now in our hands ... We have raised
two flags inside the town and the battles are over. Azmarin is
completely under our control," one resident, who did not want to
be named, told Reuters by telephone from inside the town.
But a few km (miles) along the border clashes continued in
the Syrian town of Darkush, where the crack of gunfire and
sporadic sound of shelling could be heard from Turkey.
In a preliminary death toll across the country for Friday
alone, the Observatory listed about 160 dead. Among them were a
3-year-old child killed in a bombardment of old Aleppo, a
district whose ancient buildings have been severely damaged.
Tensions between Ankara and Damascus have also worsened.
Turkey scrambled two fighter jets on Friday after a Syrian
helicopter bombed Azmarin and has warned of a more forceful
response if violence continue to spill over the border after a
shell from Syria killed five Turkish civilians 10 days ago.
"If similar border violations occur again, and we feel that
Turkey's national security is under threat, we will retaliate
without hesitation," Davutoglu said.
Syria's state news agency SANA said Damascus was ready to
accept a Russian proposal for a Syrian-Turkish joint security
committee to try to contain the border violence. There was no
confirmation of this from the Turkish side.