ANKARA (Reuters) - 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 civilized 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 skepticism 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 in Syria.
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 activists said.
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