Syria's FM Rejects Foreign Interference, Calls on Turkey to Reconsider Position
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Wednesday rejected foreign meddling in his country's internal affairs while stressing Damascus is keen to maintain good ties with longtime ally Turkey.
"We are keen on maintaining good relations with Turkey with which we share a common border of 850 kilometers," Muallem told a press conference in Damascus.
"We don't want to wipe away years of efforts to establish privileged ties," he added. "I wish (Turkey) would reconsider its position."
His comments came as Turkey has distanced itself from Syria over its brutal crackdown on a pro-democracy revolt that has threatened the authoritarian rule of President Bashar Assad.
Muallem, however, stressed that his country would not tolerate any foreign interference in its internal affairs.
"We can reach consensus despite opposing points of view," he said. "No one outside (Syria) can impose on us their point of view."
He said he did not believe the international community would launch a military operation against Syria.
Muallem also accused his French counterpart Alain Juppe of having colonial "illusions."
"Mr Juppe is still living under the illusions of the French colonial era. He has no influence in Syrian affairs," the foreign minister said.
France is spearheading attempts to get the United Nations to speak out against Syria's deadly crackdown on protests.
On Monday, Juppe said in Luxembourg that Assad had reached "a point of no return."
"Some believe there's still time for him to change his ways and commit to a (reform) process," he said. "For my part, I doubt it. I think that the point of no return has been reached."
Western governments have been circulating a draft Security Council resolution condemning Assad's crackdown but Russia has warned it would veto such a move.
More than 1,300 civilians have been killed and some 10,000 people arrested, according to Syrian rights groups, in the crackdown that has seen troops dispatched to crush revolt in cities across the Middle Eastern country.
Assad on Tuesday ordered a new general amnesty, a day after an offer of "national dialogue" to end the deadly unrest and as a huge crowd rallied in Damascus in his support.
Pro-democracy activists have however rejected Assad's overtures and vowed that the "revolution" would carry on, while the U.S. State Department called for "action, not words."
Muallem on Wednesday said Syria regarded EU sanctions as a "war" against Damascus.
In Luxembourg on Monday, "outraged" European ministers agreed to beef up sanctions on Assad as they cast doubt on his latest offers of change, some demanding he "reform or step aside."
European Union foreign ministers also angrily demanded action at the United Nations and slammed Russia's resistance to any such move.
The ministers said the EU was looking at adding more than a dozen people and businesses to a blacklist of 23 people targeted by an asset freeze and travel ban which already includes Assad and key allies.