* Erdogan says U.N. disunity helps Syrian crackdown
* Russia and China have vetoed two U.N. resolutions
* PM says working for release of two journalists in Syria
By Jonathon Burch
ANKARA, April 3 Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan accused the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday of
indirectly supporting the "oppression" of the Syrian people by
failing to adopt a united stance on Syria.
Once a friend of Damascus, Turkey has become a fierce critic
of President Bashar al-Assad over his year-long crackdown on his
opponents and has called for the Syrian leader to step down.
"In not taking a decision, the U.N. Security Council has
indirectly supported the oppression. To stand by with your hands
and arms tied while the Syrian people are dying every day is to
support the oppression," Erdogan said.
In February, the Turkish prime minister described a veto by
permanent Security Council members China and Russia of a U.N.
resolution on Syria as a "fiasco for the civilised world".
Russia and China have vetoed two council resolutions
condemning Assad for turning his army on civilians.
"We will not turn our backs on the Syrian people, we will
not leave the Syrian people to their own fate," Erdogan told a
meeting of his ruling AK Party on Tuesday.
On Monday U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan told the
15-nation Security Council that Damascus had agreed to an April
10 deadline to withdraw all military units from towns to pave
the way for a ceasefire with rebels two days later.
But Annan also told the council there had been no reduction
in violence so far and Western envoys have expressed scepticism
about Damascus' intent to halt its assault on opponents.
Assad has repeatedly promised to stop his campaign against
anti-government activists, which has brought the country to the
brink of civil war, but the fighting has continued.
On Tuesday, Annan's spokesman said an advance team from the
U.N. peacekeeping department was expected in Damascus within 48
hours to discuss deployment of observers to monitor a ceasefire
Erdogan also said his government was working to secure the
immediate release of two Turkish journalists who went missing in
Syria just under a month ago.
"We are continuing our intense efforts in relation to the
two Turkish journalists detained in Syria. We are continuing our
efforts on every level to secure their immediate release and
ensure their return to Turkey," he said.
Reporter Adem Ozkose, who works for the Milat newspaper, and
cameraman Hamit Coskun went missing early last month in Idlib
province, just across the border from Turkey, Turkish media and
There have been media reports the two men had been detained
by Syrian security forces although Ankara has not confirmed this
and last month the foreign ministry said it was still seeking
information on their whereabouts.
Erdogan did not say who had detained the pair.
Turkey's Hatay province has become a staging post for
reporters attempting to cross the border to cover the protests
and fighting in nearby areas of Syria.
Such work has become increasingly risky. U.S. veteran war
correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik
were killed during fighting in the city of Homs in February.
Some 20,000 Syrian refugees now live in camps in Turkey and
about 400 more people flee across the border every day.
(Editing by Alistair Lyon)