ISTANBUL (AP) — The Syrian regime has degenerated into an "armed militia" that resorts to brutality in an attempt to stay in power, Turkey's foreign minister said Saturday at a meeting with top Arab diplomats.
The officials at a one-day summit in Istanbul described the Syrian regime as a threat to peace and security in the region, and they also expressed support for the Palestinians after the United Nations endorsed an independent state for them on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey said the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad had lost its legitimacy after 20 months of conflict that started with peaceful protests against the regime and evolved into a civil war after pro-Assad forces cracked down.
"It has turned into an armed militia power that resorts to all kinds of brutal methods just to stay in power," Davutoglu said. "The Syrian regime, which is a serious threat to the future of its own people and country, with each passing day increases the threat it poses to the well-being of our region, through its actions that target peace and security beyond its borders."
The Syrian civil war has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee the country, and many more are internally displaced. Activists say more than 40,000 people have died. Fighting has spilled into Turkey and other neighboring countries.
Turkey has asked NATO to deploy Patriot missiles on its territory as a defense against any attacks by the Syrian regime, and there are fears that the conflict is deepening sectarian divisions in the region.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour agreed that the Syrian war has "negative ramifications" for the region. But he advocated dialogue as the only solution to the crisis, contrasting with Turkey's calls at the United Nations for an internationally protected "buffer zone" inside Syria that would protect civilians. Such a zone would likely require military action to secure it, including a no-fly zone.
"There should not be any external military or any other kind of intervention," said Mansour, current chairman of the Arab League.
He said the meeting of a dozen foreign ministers as well as other delegates, titled the Turkish-Arab Cooperation Forum, was a positive sign for a region traditionally plagued by a lack of political unity. Turkey launched the annual meeting in 2007.
"This was important in the aftermath of the 1990s, when we did not have a lot of activity," Mansour said.