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Erdogan warns of ‘civil war’ in Syria as daily bloodshed continues

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday of a “civil war” in neighboring Syria, where forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime persist with deadly crackdown on opponents.

“The situation that has emerged there is right now heading towards a religious, sectarian and racial civil war. This must be stopped,” Erdogan said at a televised press conference.

“Turkey must play a leading role here. A civil war which could emerge would put us in difficulty... and pose a threat to us,” he said.

Turkey, which shares a 910-kilometre (570-mile) border with Syria, has stepped up criticism of Assad's crackdown on opposition protests, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives since mid-March, according to U.N. estimates.

Erdogan has previously openly called on his one-time ally Assad to step down.

"Syria right now has an administration which mercilessly murders its own citizens. Nobody can expect us to applaud... authoritarian regimes," said Erdogan.

Turkey last year joined the Arab League and Western powers in imposing economic sanctions on Damascus. It suspended all financial credit dealings with Syria and froze Syrian government assets.

Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey had begun implementing sanctions against the Syrian leadership, adding that they would increase according to the situation on the ground.

The General Commission of the Revolution said at least 20 people were killed by security forces across Syria on Monday as the Arab League’s fails to take firmer line against Syrian President Assad.

The Arab League has urged the Syrian government to end its violence against protesters and allow League monitors in the country to work more freely, but stopped short of asking the U.N. to help.

The arrival last month of the monitors in Syria to judge whether the government was honoring a pledge to end a crackdown on a popular revolt has not ended the violence, in which the United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed.

After a progress meeting in Cairo on Sunday, the Arab League group on Syria said the government had only partly implemented a promise to stop the crackdown, free those jailed during the crisis and withdraw its troops from cities.

In its closing communiqué, the League said it would increase the number of monitors from the present 165 and give them more resources, ignoring calls to end what pro-democracy campaigners say is a toothless mission that buys more time for Syrian President Assad to suppress opponents, according to Reuters.

The Arab League communiqué called on the Syrian opposition to present its political vision for the country’s future, and asked the League’s secretary general to convene a Syrian opposition meeting.

But the Syrian opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) rejected the Arab League communiqué and said in a statement that it puts the killer and the victim on the same line, according to Al Arabiya.

The statement called on the Arab League to meet its responsibility towards the Syrian people through the following steps:

-Immediately announcing that the Arab observers have failed in their mission in Syria.

-Referring the Syrian file to the U.N. Security Council, paving the way for imposing a no-fly zone and establishing a safe corridor for protecting the military defector.

-The Arab League should release all evidence proving the presence of armed groups and terrorists among the protesters.

-The Arab League would be held accountable if the Syrian revolution is changed from its peaceful nature to an armed one.

-Syria should be annou7nced a disaster-zone and thus campaigns to deliver relief and aid should be launched at once.

Some Syrian opposition groups hope a failure of the mission might open the way to foreign military intervention like that which helped topple Libya’s Qaddafi last year.

But Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby said that while the Syrian opposition had asked for the case to be referred to the U.N. Security Council, there was no international appetite for military intervention in Syria.