US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed during a phone call Thursday on the need for a “transition to democracy” in Syria, the White House said.
The White House also said that Obama and Erdogan had also agreed on the need for an “immediate halt of all bloodshed and violence against the Syrian people” by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
“The two leaders underscored the urgency of the situation, reiterated their deep concern about the Syrian government’s use of violence against civilians and their belief that the Syrian people’s legitimate demands for a transition to democracy should be met,” the White House said in a readout of the call.
While Obama and Erdogan in recent weeks have both deplored the regime’s violent crackdown against protesters, they have stopped short of calling directly for Assad’s departure.
During weeks of hesitation, Washington gradually hardened its stance, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying Assad has lost his legitimacy to rule and the Obama administration pressing for tougher international sanctions on a regime bent on crushing a pro-democracy movement.
On Thursday, US officials said the United States has finally decided to call explicitly for Assad to step down amid broadening pressure to staunch the bloodshed, adding that the announcement could be just hours away.
Erdogan on Saturday said Turkey, which shares a border with Syria and whose ties with Damascus have flourished in recent years, “has run out of patience” with the ongoing violence.
Washington, citing rights activists in Syria, says more than 2,000 people have been killed in the Syrian unrest.