Turkey calls for action after Syria attack

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 23, 2013 9:43 AM
Turkey calls for action after Syria attack

By Jonathon Burch

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey urged the U.N. Security Council on Friday to take "concrete action" after a deadly attack in Syria in which it said chemical weapons had clearly been used.

Syria's opposition has accused government forces of gassing hundreds of people near Damascus by firing rockets that released deadly fumes over rebel-held suburbs. Damascus has dismissed the allegation.

"There is nothing left to say now regarding the events that are taking place in Syria, it is now time for actual concrete action," Turkish President Abdullah Gul told reporters in Istanbul on Friday.

"The price of playing down the events and procrastinating through diplomatic maneuvering and trickery in the U.N. Security Council will be very high."

In a live television interview late on Thursday, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said it was "very obvious" chemical weapons had been used in that attack.

"Some are still debating this, 'was it like this, was it like that?' What do you mean 'was it like this?' There are no bullets, no blood traces, no gunpowder, there is nothing. It is very obvious and clear, everything is evident," Erdogan said.

The United Nations stepped up demands on Syria for access to rebel-held Damascus suburbs hit by the apparent poison gas attack and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's opponents said they had sent tissue samples with couriers to try to get them to a U.N. inspection team in the country.

President Barack Obama stressed on Friday that he would not rush to embroil Americans in a costly new war.

Turkey, once an ally of Assad but now one of his fiercest critics, has long been concerned about the possible use of chemical weapons across its southern border and has repeatedly criticized the U.N. Security Council for inaction.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met his British and German counterparts in recent days to discuss the attack and telephoned Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the hope that Tehran, an Assad ally, would lean on him to allow U.N. inspectors access to the site.

(Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London and Nick Tattersall in Istanbul; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Andrew Roche)