A day after the Istanbul press conference in which the leaders of Turkey and Syria
reconfirmed the strong bond between their countries, and harshly criticized the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip, London-based al-Quds al-Arabi reported on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad
proposed a new initiative to his host, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aimed at having the blockade on the Strip lifted once and for all.
Syrian sources refused to outline the plan's details, but told the newspaper that it includes a number of political ideas for regional and international activity aimed at lifting the siege. According to the sources, Qatar is slated to take part in the initiative's implementation.
According to the report, Assad considers the current political situation a window of opportunity to work, together with Turkey, to boost pressure on Israel, partly in light of the increased calls in Europe and the United States to either end or loosen the blockade on the Strip.
Both Turkey and Syria believe "the diplomatic move, combined with the current timing, has the power to yield results and create a change in the equation that will bring an end to the Gaza Strip's isolation," the report said.
At a press conference
on Monday, Assad conveyed his condolences for the deaths of Turkish citizens in the Gaza flotilla raid,
saying they lost their lives "in a heinous crime, while defending a just cause. They are shahids in heaven.
"This is not the first time Israel commits crimes, but in this case it failed to label its victims as 'terrorists'," said the Syrian leader.
"We all know that the activists were not even allowed to carry knives. What happened was not the result of a mistake on the part of the (Israeli) soldiers or an erroneous government decision – it was Israeli instinct," he added.
Meanwhile, Erdogan stressed he does not plan on backing down from his harsh stance against Israel, and said he would "no longer be silent on Gaza becoming a giant prison."
The Turkish prime minister called for an "end to the occupation of Arab lands."
Erdogan said that Ankara would continue to patiently follow the efforts to establish an international commission of inquiry into the raid. "Israel must pay the price for what happened," he said.