An envoy of Syrian President Bashar Assad held crisis talks with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, as Turkey pressed its once-close neighbor to end a crackdown that it has called "savagery."
The once-close ties between the neighbors appear close to breaking point, and Assad's envoy Hassan Turkmani is likely to face Turkish impatience over Syria's repressive tactics and slowness to reform, as well as anger over a burgeoning humanitarian crisis.
As of Wednesday morning, some 8,500 Syrian refugees were lodged in tented camps on Turkey's side of the border. More have been arriving by the day.
Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey to escape a fierce military campaign staged protests in one of the camps in the town of Yayladagi, chanting "People want freedom!" and "Erdogan help us!," before Turkey's foreign minister was to start a tour of the area.
Speaking to journalists before meeting Erdogan in Ankara, Turkmani said the refugees would stay in Turkey for a "short period of time."
"Soon they will be returning. We have prepared everything for them, they have started returning."
Assad asked to send an emissary when he called Erdogan on Tuesday to congratulate him on winning a third term in office.
Erdogan, who had a close rapport with Assad, had said before his re-election that, once the election was over, he would be talking to Assad in a "very different manner," and expressed revulsion over repression being used against the Syrian people.
A Turkish official said the Turkish leadership would probably give Assad's emissary the same message.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu toured one of the refugee camps in Turkey's Hatay rovince, across from the Syrian city of Jisr al-Shughour, just 20 km from the border. He was due to meet Turkmani in Ankara later on Wednesday.
Media have been barred from entering the camps by Turkish authorities, who say any pictures of the Syrians could put them or their families in danger back home.
A 36-year-old Syrian man in a street in Guvecci, who gave his name as Ahmed and refused to be filmed, gave a taste of what Davutoglu was likely to hear.
"We decided to flee to Turkey after learning troops had arrived in Jisr al Shughour, I , my wife and six kids. We heard they were burning down the city, including the mosques," he said.
"We came here to protect our family, we're not against them, but they fight us like we were infidels.
"I don't plan to go back until the situation improves there. Some of my relatives were wounded during protests in Jisr al Shughour, one of them was shot in the foot, two were killed, one was shot in the head and is in intensive care now."
Preparations are being made for another influx of refugees far to the east along the 800 km border.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now