Turkish Prime Minister Says ‘It’s Clear’ Syrian Regime Used Chemical Weapons

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Credit: Reuters)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against opposition forces.

“We will discuss the use of chemical weapons during our meeting with President Obama; it’s clear that the Assad regime is using it,” Erdogan told Japanese media, according to the Israeli website Ynet. “The opposition is in control of the region, but Assad is the one using chemical arms, fighter planes and helicopters. These are the final moments of the regime, but we don’t know when it will fall. It’ll happen suddenly.”

President Obama has said that chemical weapons use in Syria would change his calculations in terms of the level of American involvement in the civil war there. But while the U.S. has said that chemical weapons were likely used, Obama is taking a cautious approach regarding the next steps. “[I]f we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in the position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support what we do,” he said in a press conference this week.

Obama administration officials have reportedly said that the president is not ruling out any option — including a no-fly zone — but it appears that the White House is moving toward sending arms to moderate rebels because, as the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, “many officials see it as one of the few steps available to shore up the opposition without drawing the U.S. military into the two-year-old civil war.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday wouldn’t deny that Obama is looking closer at sending arms to the rebels. “We are engaging with the opposition. We are getting to know the opposition better,” he said.

But with Erdogan’s assessment, Turkey now joins the United Kingdom, France, Qatar and Israel as key American allies confirming that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said this week that the international community must respond. “Doing nothing, it’s not an option,” he said, adding that world powers should try “to help the opposition in a more concrete way, like providing them, instead of non-lethal assistance…weapons, [and] maybe to impose a no-fly zone, at least on part of Syria.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syrian authorities to allow a team of inspectors in the country to investigate the allegations of chemical weapons use, saying that “a credible and comprehensive inquiry” requires access to all sites where allegations have been made.