Merkel: China, Russia seeing Syrian president's time is up

KAHRAMANMARAS, Turkey Sun Feb 24, 2013 5:43pm GMT

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) meets with troops from a German NATO Patriot missile battery at a Turkish military base in Kahramanmaras February 24, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) meets with troops from a German NATO Patriot missile battery at a Turkish military base in Kahramanmaras February 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Murad Sezer

KAHRAMANMARAS, Turkey (Reuters) - China and Russia are increasingly realising that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's time is up, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday, as she visited German troops stationed with NATO Patriot missiles close to the Turkish-Syrian frontier.

Merkel, beginning a two-day trip to Turkey, said the missiles, provided at NATO member Turkey's request, were a signal that the alliance would not tolerate Damascus dragging its neighbours into its conflict.

"In view of the terrible events the impression is mounting that China and Russia realise that Mr Assad no longer has a future, that his time is up and that there must be a democratic government," she told troops deployed to operate the missile batteries.

China and Russia, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have blocked attempts by the West to mount pressure on Assad to end the violence in the nearly two-year-old conflict that has killed some 70,000 people.

Merkel said conflicts such as Syria's ultimately need a political solution. She repeated her doubts about arming the Syrian opposition, noting weapons provided to Libyan rebels to assist their uprising had fallen into the wrong hands, and had ended up in use in fighting in Mali.

The Chancellor is due to meet Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul in Ankara on Monday for talks on Syria, Turkey's European Union membership bid and Kurdish militants as well as business ties.

Before leaving Germany she said she favoured new talks to revive Turkey's stalled EU bid, but stressed the outcome of these talks should be open and said she was still sceptical about whether Turkey should join.

A poll published by German newspaper Bild am Sonntag on Sunday showed 60 percent of Germans opposed Turkey's EU membership.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Alexandra Hudson in Berlin; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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