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Turkey Demands Humanitarian Corridors In Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses lawmakers of his party in parliament in Ankara on March 6.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan has called on neighboring Syria to allow the immediate opening of humanitarian corridors to help civilians threatened by the government offensive against antiregime protesters.

Erdogan, speaking on March 6 at a meeting in Ankara of lawmakers from his Justice and Development Party, urged the international community to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to permit delivery of relief supplies to civilians.

"Humanitarian aid corridors in Syria must be opened right away, and we must increase pressure on the Syrian administration to deliver humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, especially to Homs," Erdogan said.

"The Arab League decision on Syria must be implemented without wasting any more time."

Erdogan, who has been one of the strongest critics of his former ally Assad over the security crackdown, also said that the Syrian leader would be held accountable his actions.

"I would like to remind [Assad] one more time: his father couldn't be brought to account in this world, but sooner or later, [Assad] will be brought to account for this cruelty and massacre," he said.

Turkey shares a 910-kilometer-long border with Syria. According to Turkish government figures, some 11,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey since Syrian security forces began their crackdown on opponents of Assad's regime a year ago.

Separately, the United States said on March 6 the best path on Syria was to isolate the regime, cut off key revenue streams, and push the opposition to unite. It also said the U.S. administration was currently focused on diplomatic approaches to the Syrian crisis rather than military intervention.

Pressure On Syria

In Brussels, European Union ambassadors are set to discuss on March 6 whether the bloc's member states should keep open their embassies in Syria. Earlier this month, the United States, Britain, and France closed their embassies in Damascus to protest the killings of civilians.

The EU's foreign-policy chief on March 6 called on Russia to do more to try to end the violence in Syria.

Speaking in Helsinki, Catherine Ashton told reporters, "Now that the elections are over with, it is important to be able to continue to try to persuade Russia to play its role in the [United Nations] Security Council."

Russia and China last month used their veto power to block a UN resolution to back an Arab League peace plan for Syria. Both states said the plan could potentially violate Syria's sovereignty and laid too much blame for the violence on the government.

A special Chinese envoy began a two-day visit to the Syrian capital on March 6 to press for a cease-fire. Li Huaqing, China's former ambassador to Syria, is to meet with government officials but is not expected to meet rebels seeking to overthrow Assad.

The security crackdown by the Syrian government has left more than 7,500 people dead, according to United Nations estimates.

With Reuters, AFP, and dpa reporting