With anti-government unrest in Turkey showing no sign of abating, the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad has issued a warning for its own citizens to stay away from Turkey.
The Syrian foreign ministry said that Syrians were being warned “against travel to Turkey for the time being for their own safety, because of the deteriorating security situation in several Turkish cities… and the violence of [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan‘s government against peaceful protesters.”
Since March 2011, Syria has been mired in a bloody civil war that has killed at least 80,000 and displaced more than one million. Some 370,000 of the Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey.
In Turkey, hundreds — some say, thousands — have been injured since a violent police crackdown Friday on what began as a peaceful protest against a park demolition in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The brutal response triggered riots against the policies of Erdogan’s AK Party in what some have dubbed a “Turkish Spring.”
Reacting to the protests in Turkey, the Syrian minister of information, Omran al-Zoubi, said that the “brotherly Turkish people do not deserve this barbarity.”
“If Erdogan is incapable of following non-violent means, he has to step down,” the Syrian official SANA news agency quoted him as saying. “We wish the Turkish people stability and calm… We call upon Erdogan to show wisdom and not to deal with the Turkish people in the same way he did with Syria.”
Turkey has been a harsh critic of Assad, after Erdogan, a former ally of the Syrian president, turned against him several months after the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. The Turkish leader said his patience had been worn thin after Damascus refused Ankara’s advice on political reforms in response to protests.
Syrian officials have accused Turkey of fueling the bloodshed in Syria and harboring political and military opponents of the Assad regime.