Turkey has confirmed that Syria's beleaguered president Bashar Assad has asked Venezuela for asylum for his family as opposition forces continue to make military gains on the ground, Turkish daily Zaman reported Wednesday.
According to the report, Venezuela's Foreign Ministry informed Turkish diplomats that claims that Assad sent a letter requesting asylum to the leader of the Latin American country, Hugo Chavez, are true.
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Turkey's Akşam daily reported Wednesday that Turkish officials in Caracas visited the Foreign Ministry and inquired about the letter. The Venezuelan officials confirmed the letter but declined to give details on its content.
Earlier this month, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Al-Mokdad visited several Latin American countries, including Venezuela. According to Zaman, he received mostly "symbolic backing" for his government's 21-month battle against the armed opposition.
'Who should I support?' Assad (L) and Chavez (Archive photo: Reuters)
According to the report, Chavez has gone even further than his neighbors to support Assad, sending at least three shipments of diesel oil to the Syrian government, which is straining under economic embargos imposed by the United States and the European Union.
Two months ago Chavez said he would continue to support the "legitimate government" in Damascus. The Venezuelan leader added: "How can I not support the government of President Bashar Assad if it is the legitimate government of Syria? Who should I support? Terrorists who want a transitional government and kill people on all sides?"
Chavez blamed the United States for the war that has raged on for nearly 19 months. "The government of the United States is one of the parties most to blame for this disaster" in Syria, he added. "Now, Mr Obama, if you are re-elected, sit back and reflect, and the governments of Europe should do the same."
More than 45,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak in March 2011 of an anti-regime revolt that became a bloody insurgency after a brutal crackdown on dissent, activists said Wednesday.
"In all, we have documented the deaths of 45,048 people," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that more than 1,000 people were killed in the last week itself.