Turkish President visits bomb-hit Reyhanli- UPDATED

Gul criticised the world's response to the Syria conflict as limited to "rhetoric", saying his country had received little help in coping with a huge influx of Syrian refugees

Turkish President visits bomb-hit Reyhanli- UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

Turkish President Abdullah Gül on Thursday arrived in Hatay's Reyhanlı district, which was hit by two car bombs on Saturday that left 51 dead.

The president, accompanied by Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Güler, was greeted by Hatay Governor Celalettin Lekesiz, Hatay Police Department head Ragıp Kılıç and Hatay Gendarmerie Regional Commander Col. Mustafa Başoğlu.

Gül will first visit the Reyhanlı Governor's Office and later in the afternoon visit the scene of the bombing attacks, which were the deadliest in the country's history. The president will later meet with families of the victims to offer his condolences. He will then visit the wounded in the Mustafa Kemal University Medical Faculty Hospital.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul criticised the world's response to the Syria conflict on Thursday as limited to "rhetoric", saying his country had received little help in coping with a huge influx of Syrian refugees.

"The international community's contribution to Turkey's financial aid to these people who are in a difficult situation is only symbolic," Gul told reporters in the border town of Reyhanli where car bombs killed 51 people at the weekend.

Apart from hosting about 400,000 Syrian refugees, Turkey strongly backs the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, but the Reyhanli bombings have increased fears of spillover from the two-year-old civil war in its southern neighbour.

Damascus has denied Turkish allegations it was involved in the blasts.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington later in the day, with Syria expected to be high on their agenda.

"From the very start the international community has only used rhetoric and heroism in their approach to the Syrian problem," Gul said.

Big-power divisions have paralysed United Nations action on Syria, but the United States and Russia are now trying to bring the warring parties to a peace conference next month.

According to official records, 41 of the victims killed in the attack were Turkish and seven were Syrian. Efforts are ongoing to determine the identities of the remaining three victims. Seventeen of the injured are in critical condition. As many as 100 people were injured in the attack.

One of the car bombs exploded outside city hall while the other went off outside the post office in the town of Reyhanlı, a main hub for Syrian refugees and opposition activity in Turkey's Hatay province, just across the border from Syria.

Secuirty, Intelligence forces had been tipped off

Gul indicated that the Turkish Intelligence Organization (MIT) and security forces had been tipped off regarding the Reyhanli bombing suspects. He said both MIT and the police were suspicious that some incidents might have occurred, and had been tracking the suspects now facing trial.

Stating the MIT and the security forces would continue their efforts regarding the Reyhanli bombing, Gul said, “You can prevent 99 out of 100 incidents, and those incidents will not come to attention. But when one is missed, this sort of pain is suffered. This is the case.”

Gul expressed that those who ordered, conducted and helped in the attacks would be punished.  

Gul noted that the attack intended to turn the people in Reyhanli against each other, adding, “I want to remind all our citizens. Do not be played. Today is the day for commonsense, the day for unity and togetherness, and for solidarity.”

Border tensions

The United Nations says the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey could climb to one million by the end of the year.

Ankara, reluctant to act unilaterally in Syria, has grown increasingly troubled by what it calls international inaction on the crisis, which has long divided the big powers.

The twin bombings in Reyhanli, among the bloodiest in Turkey's modern history, stoked unease among Turks along the border most affected by the turmoil in Syria.

Several protests have erupted in Reyhanli and other nearby towns since the bombings, with many locals blaming security problems on Ankara's policy of supporting the Syrian opposition.

Others have taken out their frustration on the Syrians themselves. Thousands of Syrians have settled in Reyhanli because of its proximity to the border and because most of its people are Sunnis, like almost all the refugees.

A Syrian doctor in Reyhanli who treats wounded Syrians at a rehabilitation centre said one of his nurses had been attacked on the street hours after the blasts. Others said their cars had been attacked and one said locals had seized him and handed him over to the police.

While the incidents appear to be isolated and sporadic, the general sense of anger directed at the Syrians has made most of the refugees too afraid to venture out of their homes.

Gul said any sudden population influx could allow those with "bad intentions" to surface, but urged people in the area to be "level-headed" and said the bomb perpetrators would be punished.


Last Mod: 16 Mayıs 2013, 17:43
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