Turkey Says Not Ready to Call on Assad to Step Down

Turkey believes it is too soon to call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, a government official told Agence France Presse on Friday.

"We are not there yet," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"First and foremost the people of Syria must tell Assad to go. This has not been heard in the streets of Syria," the official said.

"The Syrian opposition is not united and we haven't seen yet a collective call from Syrians to tell Assad to go, like in Egypt and Libya."

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama made the first explicit call for Assad to resign over his regime's attacks on protesters, which was swiftly echoed by the leaders of France, Germany and Britain.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu were both in Somalia on Friday to tour areas affected by famine.

The country's National Security Council (MGK), which brings together top civilian and military officials, discussed Ankara's strategy on Syria on Thursday but fell short of making an open appeal for Assad to resign. It instead repeated calls for an immediate end to violence.

"It has been emphasized once again that the use of violence and force against civilians must be stopped immediately," the MGK said in a statement, released late Thursday.

It said a democratic change must take place in compliance with the "legitimate demands of the friendly and brotherly Syrian people," according to Anatolia news agency.

Turkey's ambassador to Syria, Omer Onhon, also briefed the council, Turkish media reported.

Source: Agence France Presse

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