ISTANBUL // Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says his patience with the Syrian government was running out and suggested that President Bashar Al Assad may end up like Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian leader now facing trial.
"Until today, we have been very patient, wondering many times whether we can solve this, whether words translated into actions," Mr Erdogan told guests at an Istanbul iftar on Saturday. "But now we have come to the last moments of our patience."
Mr Erdogan said he was sending Ahmet Davutoglu, his foreign minister, to Damascus tomorrow for talks. "In these talks, he will convey our messages in a firm way," the prime minister added in his televised speech. "What will happen afterwards will depend on the answers we will receive."
Earlier this year, Turkey called on Mr Mubarak to leave power, and Mr Erdogan has also demanded an end to the rule of Libyan leader Col Muammar Qaddafi. But Ankara has long been less outspoken in the case of Mr Al Assad and Syria, where, according to human-rights monitors, more than 1,800 people have died in protests against the regime in recent months.
Bulent Arinc, a Turkish deputy prime minister, said last week that the recent attack by Syrian forces on the city of Hama was an "atrocity" and that the government behind such brutality could not be called a friend.
Coming as the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) also called for an end to the violence in Syria, Mr Erdogan's speech reflected a deep disappointment with Mr Al Assad personally and grave doubts about the readiness of the regime in Damascus to introduce serious reforms.
Mr Erdogan insisted Turkey could not regard events in Syria as a foreign affair, given a joint border of almost 900km, many family bonds between the two countries as well as cultural and historical ties.
In June thousands of Syrians fled to southern Turkey.
"We have to listen to the voices from over there, we hear them, and of course we will act accordingly," Mr Erdogan said.
Referring to the recent fighting in Hama, scene of an uprising put down by the Syrian regime headed by Mr Al Assad's father in 1982, Mr Erdogan asked: "What kind of a mind, what kind of a conscience can accept that this great pain is renewed in this wounded city, and on a day of Ramadan as well?"
Quoting an Arab saying, "Man dakka dukka", or loosely translated "He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind", Mr Erdogan said those resisting change would pay a heavy price. "Whom are you trying to please by having bullets rain down on the people?" he asked of the Syrian government.
Without mentioning Mr Mubarak by name, Mr Erdogan said: "Those who sent them to the gallows are no longer standing on their feet. Look where they are going on their stretchers," Mr Erdogan said in a reference to the former Egyptian leader, who attended trial in Cairo on a stretcher last week.