ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday welcomed Western strikes against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime as ‘appropriate’ in retaliation for Damascus’ ‘inhumane’ attacks.
“We consider this operation as appropriate,” Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling party in Istanbul.
With the latest operation, he said: “The regime has seen that its mounting attacks in recent days against dissidents… will not be left unanswered.”
The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of pre-dawn strikes against the Assad regime Saturday in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians on April 7.
Erdogan said he had a “sleepless night” as he monitored all the developments.
“It is not possible for us to approve the situation encountered by (Syrian) babies as a result of the use of chemicals weapons,” he said.
“Whoever the perpetrators they should pay a price.”
Erdogan held a telephone conversation with British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron following the strikes.
The Turkish leader told the two leaders his country “clearly condemned” the use of chemical weapons, a Turkish presidential source said.
He said the only way to long-lasting peace in Syria was a “political solution,” the source added. The Turkish leader also emphasised the importance of de-escalating the tension in the region.
Turkey is a vocal critic of Assad’s regime in Damascus and backed militants fighting for his ouster.
In recent months, however, it has closely worked with Russia for a political solution in Syria even though Moscow remains a chief ally of the regime.
Erdogan also had an “exchange of views” over the US-led strikes, in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin late on Saturday, the Turkish presidential source said.
The two leaders “reaffirmed their determination to exert joint efforts to reduce tensions on the ground in Syria and to find a political solution to the problem,” the source added.
They agreed to “stay in close touch on both bilateral and regional issues.”
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the strikes had not been launched via Turkey’s southern Incirlik air base.
“Turkey was informed ahead of the attack,” he wrote on Twitter. “The Incirlik base was not used in the attack.”
In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said the US-led operation “has eased humanity’s conscience in the face of” the suspected chemical attack.
“The Syrian regime, which has been tyrannising its own people for more than seven years, be it with conventional or chemical weapons, has a proven track record of crimes against humanity and war crimes,” it said.
“The conscience of the international community is in no doubt about that.”