Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on his former ally Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down.
“Quit power before more blood is shed … for the peace of your people, your region and your country,” Erdogan said in parliament.
After weeks of mounting criticism of the Syrian leader, it was the first time the Turkish premier had directly called for his removal from power.
He is the second regional leader to do so, after Jordan’s King Abdullah last week called on him to go.
“Bashar al-Assad is saying he will fight to the death. Fighting your own people … is not heroism but cowardliness,” Erdogan said, referring to a recent interview with Assad published by the Sunday Times in London.
“If you want to see someone who fought and died, take at look at Nazi Germany, take a look at Hitler, take a look at Mussolini and Romania’s Ceausescu,” he said.
If the Syrian leader had failed to learn lessons from history, Erdogan invited him to consider the more recent fate of Libya’s late strongman Moamer Kadhafi.
Turkey has become increasingly vocal in its criticism of Assad after its diplomatic missions came under attack by pro-government demonstrators in several Syrian cities earlier this month.
That incident was followed by reports of an attack on busloads of Turkish pilgrims in Syria on their way back from Hajj in Mecca early on Monday.
In his first official remarks confirming the attack, Erdogan said: “The Syrian administration did not prevent the attack on buses carrying pilgrims.”
He said: “Protecting citizens of a foreign country … is the honour of a country.”
He called on the Syrian leadership to find the perpetrators of the attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions and pilgrims and “deliver them to justice.”