Obama, Erdogan Vow to Up Pressure on Assad

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to crank up pressure on Syria's President Bashar Assad Thursday, but offered no concrete new measures to do so.

Obama warned there was no "magic formula" to force Assad to leave power, as both the United States and Turkey want, but said he hoped a conference that Washington is organizing with Russia next month would be successful.

He gave no sign that he was ready to satisfy Turkish calls for Washington to overcome its reservations about directly arming rebels fighting Assad's regime.

"There is no magic formula for dealing with a extraordinary violent and difficult situation like Syria's," Obama said, after meeting Erdogan at the White House.

"If there was, I think the Prime Minister and I would already have acted upon it and it would already be finished," Obama said.

Obama also said that his administration is constantly reviewing his options in Syria, beyond current non-military support for opposition forces and humanitarian aid to refugees.

"I preserve the option of taking additional steps, both diplomatic and military," Obama said.

Erdogan said U.S. and Turkish goals in Turkey overlapped and said he would continue to discuss how to build a transition in Turkey and to support the opposition in talks later on Thursday with Obama.

Meanwhile, the Turkish PM announced he would probably make his planned trip to Gaza in June and that he also was expecting to visit the West Bank.

Erdogan gave new details of the Gaza trip, which will test Turkey's relations with Israel after a U.S.-brokered rapprochement.

"According to my plan, most probably I would be visiting Gaza in June," said Erdogan, who had earlier said that he would reveal details of the trip, which has been opposed by Washington, after meeting Obama.

"But it will not be a visit only to Gaza. I will also go to the West Bank."

The dual stops means Erdogan will hold talks with the Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian authority of president Mahmoud Abbas, likely in Ramallah.

"I place a lot of significance on this visit in terms of peace in the Middle East. I'm hoping that that visit will contribute to unity in Palestine," Erdogan said.

Washington had urged Erdogan to postpone visiting the impoverished Palestinian territory, saying it would be a "distraction" from its efforts to revive the moribund Middle East peace process.

Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Turkey last month that the trip would be "better delayed", and urged Erdogan to wait for the "right circumstances."

But Erdogan hit back at Kerry's comments, saying: "We wish he had not said that" and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters it was up to Turkey to decide what it would do.

Erdogan has said that his visit would be aimed at pushing for the lifting of Israel's embargo on the Gaza Strip but Washington fears such a trip could hurt the truce Obama brokered between Washington's two key regional allies.

The breakthrough came after Erdogan accepted an apology from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the deaths of nine Turks during a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla as Obama left Israel after a visit in March.

Comments 8
Missing yakoub 16 May 2013, 21:34

Keep dreaming benzona.

Thumb love4bashar2 16 May 2013, 21:35

its funny how things become so clear...well there you have it folks

Missing formerlebaniz 16 May 2013, 22:00

President Obama I don't know where you are have left your conscious and balls at what safety deposit box but you are not the man I voted for.

PM Erdogan where is your Turkish pride? When Israel killed 8 of your people you severed all relations with Israel (back than your biggest alley). Assad sends assassins and kills over 60 of your people what have you done to avenge them?

One guy puts a red line on chemical weapons which was crossed over and over again, the other takes pride of tough talk but at the end he ends up as all talk no actions. Both of you are disappointments to humanity.

Missing salwahkalb 16 May 2013, 23:12

Former,Huh. Please stay former. No one needs a retard ....

Missing peace 16 May 2013, 23:52

yes that s why his army asked lebanese to leave their homes to create a military zone in lebanon... tfeh poor josh, you are pityful....

Thumb scorpyonn 17 May 2013, 00:20

Too bad that war criminal Dick cheney is not in charge-- by now Iran would have been reduced to ashes; they are the reason behind the world problems.

Missing siyeseh 17 May 2013, 01:02

We will never be unified with the "israelis".

Missing siyeseh 17 May 2013, 01:03

They can't topple their own creations :)