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Obama, Turkish Leader Discuss Syria in White House Meeting

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2013 – While he retains the full range of options against the Assad regime in Syria, President Barack Obama said here today, he still believes international efforts are the best way to move forward.

In a Rose Garden news conference, Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Syria was a big part of their White House discussions today.

United Nations officials estimate that more than 80,000 Syrians have been killed in the past two years and more than 5 million Syrians are refugees. Bashar Assad’s regime has launched Scud missiles at rebel-held areas and may have used chemical weapons against their own people.

The United States already is taking steps against the Syrian regime, the president said. “I reserve the options of taking additional steps -- both diplomatic and military -- because those chemical weapons inside of Syria also threaten our security over the long term, as well as our allies and friends and neighbors.”

But Syria is an international problem, the president said. “It is very much my hope to continue to work with all the various parties involved, including Turkey, to find a solution that brings peace to Syria, stabilizes the region, stabilizes those chemical weapons,” he said.

The United States should not do this alone, Obama said. “I don’t think anybody in the region … would think that U.S. unilateral actions in and of themselves would bring about a better outcome inside of Syria,” the president said.

Turkey has shared all the information it has on possible use of chemical weapons inside Syria, Erdogan said through an interpreter. “The U.N. Security Council [and] all the other relevant authorities will also receive that information in the proper time so that more information is provided to the public,” the prime minister said.

Obama said the United States has seen evidence of chemical weapons use inside of Syria. “It is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there,” the president said. “But separate and apart from the chemical weapons, we know that tens of thousands of people are being killed with artillery and mortars, and that the humanitarian crisis and the slaughter that’s taking place by itself is sufficient to prompt strong international action.”

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey, and Obama praised the Turkish leader for his nation’s humanitarian efforts. The United States will support Turkey in providing humanitarian aid, he added.

The two leaders also discussed economic ties between the two nations, the situation in Iraq, operations in Afghanistan, NATO, Cyprus and the dangers of terrorism.

Erdogan will meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tomorrow.

 

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