September 5, 2012 11:33:39 AM
ANKARA, Turkey -- Syria came under scathing international criticism Wednesday, with Turkey calling the country a terrorist state and Egypt's leader calling on President Bashar Assad to "learn from recent history" and step down.
Alluding to the fate of the authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen, which were overthrown by Arab Spring uprisings, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi warned his Syrian counterpart that "it's too late to talk about reform, this is the time for change."
Morsi's strong comments to Arab foreign ministers in Cairo followed an address last month during a summit meeting of the so-called nonaligned movement in the Iranian capital, Tehran, where the Egyptian leader gave a hearty call for world support of Syria's rebels. Iran is Assad's strongest foreign backer.
Also Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Assad's government.
"The regime has become one of state terrorism," he said. "Syria is going through a huge humanitarian saga. Unfortunately, as usual, the international community is merely watching the slaughter, massacre and the elimination of Muslims."
Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of Assad's regime and is host to Syrian opposition groups as well as some 80,000 refugees.
The regime's crackdown has led to worldwide condemnation and sanctions, weakened the economy and left Assad an international pariah just as he was trying to open up his country and modernize the economy. His few remaining allies include Iran, Russia and China.
Despite the condemnation, Syria appears poised for an increasingly drawn-out conflict. Neither the regime nor the rebels has gained a significant advantage in the crisis, which began nearly 18 months ago with largely peaceful protests but has since morphed into a civil war that activists say has killed at least 23,000 people.
As the conflict has grown increasingly militarized, it has also grown more deadly. Today, Syrian rebels said they shot down a government MiG jet and a helicopter.
A video posted online by the opposition showed the wreckage of a jet and the body of a pilot. The AP could not independently confirm the rebel claims or the video.
The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, breakaway air force colonel Riad al-Asaad, told the AP in a telephone interview from Turkey that rebels downed the aircraft in Abu al-Dhuhour, an area in the northwestern province of Idlib, five days ago.
The narrator of the online video, however, said the MiG was downed Tuesday. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled.
Al-Asaad said the rebels used anti-aircraft missiles the FSA captured from Syrian army bases. Rebels have claimed before that they have shot down government planes. The regime has acknowledged crashes in the past, but blamed them on mechanical failures.