In Istanbul Summit, Erdogan Calls for 'Moral Intervention' in Syria Crisis

Turkish PM calls on international community to put other interests aside, intervene in Syria to put an end to bloodshed.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called for a "moral intervention" in Syria to end the escalating bloodshed.

"We need a moral intervention, we must ensure our consciences prevail. No other concerns, no other interests must interfere," he said in his opening address to the second Friends of the Syrian People conference in Istanbul.

Erdogan Syria - AP - 1.4.12

Officials from 74 countries are meeting at the conference to discuss increasing pressure on Damascus to end the conflict. The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have died since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.

Erdogan said it was imperative that the international community avoid repeating the mistakes it made in Libya. "We did not give a good account of ourselves in North Africa, we allowed discussions over oil to take over - it wounded our moral position, we cannot allow that to happen in Syria."

"It is crucial that we speak with one voice and give a precise message to the Syrian regime," Erdogan said.

Warning of the risks of the international community delaying its response to the growing violence in Syria, Erdogan pointed out that the Syrian regime had so far not kept any of its promises to end the conflict. "We must not let [Syrian President] Assad turn the Annan strategy into a time-saving strategy for himself," he said.

Earlier Sunday, the Syrian National Council (SNC), a key opposition group, called on the international community to provide direct aid to the Syrian people to help them defend themselves.

"The provision of arms is not our preferred option. We know it carries high risks of escalation into civil war, but we cannot stand back and watch our people being massacred," the SNC said. "We believe this decision rests on the shoulders of the international community."

The United States has led other nations in calling for Assad to step down, but has opposed military intervention for fear of triggering a full-blown civil war.

The conference participants were also expected to look into ways of strengthening and unifying the opposition, and will discuss the six-point peace plan put forward by Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy for Syria. The first Friends of the Syrian People conference was held in Tunisia in February.

Clinton Faisal - AP - 1.4.12

The SNC requested that the Istanbul gathering help provide communications equipment to allow opposition groups to "coordinate as a unified force" with the rebel Free Syrian Army.

"Neighboring countries need to allow for the transfer [of communications equipment] via their sea ports and across borders," it said.

Turkey's state news agency Anatolia reported that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu early Sunday. The two discussed a possible meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Barack Obama on the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan.

In Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Clinton said Washington was working with its Gulf allies to strengthen the unity of the Syrian opposition.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal on Saturday reiterated his country's support for arming the Syrian opposition.

"Arming the opposition is a duty, they cannot defend themselves. If the Syrian people were able to defend themselves by lawyers, the problem would have been solved long ago," he told reporters in Riyadh.