ISTANBUL — Turkey's prime minister sharply criticized the U.N. Security Council on Saturday for its failure to agree on decisive steps to end Syria's civil war, as NATO ally Germany backed the Turkish interception of a Damascus-bound passenger jet earlier in the week.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an international conference in Istanbul that the world was witnessing a humanitarian tragedy in Syria.
"If we wait for one or two of the permanent members ... then the future of Syria will be in danger," Erdogan said, according to an official interpreter.
Russia and China, two of the five permanent Security Council members, have vetoed resolutions that sought to put concerted pressure on Damascus to end the conflict and agree to a political transition.
Erdogan called for a reform of the Security Council, which he called an "unequal, unfair system" that didn't represent the will of most countries.
He spoke as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Arab and European leaders amid growing tensions between Turkey and neighboring Syria.
Davutoglu held talks Saturday with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and U.N. envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. He told reporters after the meetings that Turkey was prepared to use force again if it was attacked, just as it did last week when a shell fired across the border from Syria killed five Turkish villagers.
"If a similar incident occurs again from the Syrian side, we will again take counter action," Davutoglu told reporters, while stressing that the border between Syria and Turkey is also the frontier of NATO.
One week after the shelling, Turkey intercepted a Syrian passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus and seized what it said was military equipment on board.
Syria denounced the move as air piracy, while Russia said the cargo was radar parts that complied with international law.
The state-run Syrian news agency SANA reported late Saturday that Syria decided to ban Turkish Airlines flights from Syrian airspace.
Germany's foreign minister backed Turkey on Saturday, saying Berlin would have acted the same way if it believed weapons were being transported to Syria over its airspace.
"It's not just about weapons. Weapons need to be steered. Weapons need to be delivered," Westerwelle said. "These are all things that don't need to be tolerated."
But he cautioned the situation between Turkey and Syria could quickly escalate out of control.
"The danger of a `wildfire' is very big," said Westerwelle, who also met briefly with Abdelbaset Sieda, head of the Syrian National Council opposition group. "If that happens, then this can become a devastating conflict for the whole region."
In Syria, activists said Saturday that army troops clashed with rebels on several fronts across the country, including in Aleppo, the largest city.
Amateur video posted online Saturday shows the aftermath of what is described as an artillery attack on a neighborhood in Aleppo. The video shows a large cloud of gray smoke pushing through a narrow street lined by apartment blocks. Residents then converge on a damaged building. "Is anyone in there?" one of the men is heard calling out as others try to put out small flames with pieces of cloth.
Eventually, rescuers are seen pulling at least two bodies out of the building. One has a bloody face, and another is carried away on a stretcher, amid shouts of "Allahu Akbar," or "God is Great.
The authenticity of such videos cannot be confirmed independently, since Syria imposes tight restrictions on foreign journalists.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, said at least two people were killed in the shelling.
Another amateur video posted Saturday showed the scattered, burning wreckage of what appeared to be an aircraft. Several gunmen stood near the debris, as civilians rushed to the scene. The narrator said video was shot in the countryside west of Aleppo.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Observatory, said he was told by local rebel fighters in the area that they had shot down the plane. The video showed flames shooting out of what appeared to be left of a wing or tail, and other wreckage a few dozen yards away.
The claim could not be verified independently.
Opposition fighters have claimed to have shot down helicopters and warplanes in the past, although the regime blamed most of the problems on mechanical difficulties.
Over the past month, rebels overran two air defense bases, including one on Friday near Aleppo. This would give them access to heavy weapons, though experts questioned whether they would be able to make use of any missiles they may have spirited away.
More than 32,000 people have been killed in Syria since a revolt against President Bashar Assad erupted 19 months ago. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the fighting, which has devastated whole neighborhoods in Syria's cities and towns.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said regime forces were pounding the rebel stronghold of Homs in central Syria with mortar fire and artillery Saturday. The southern province of Daraa, the birthplace of the revolt, also sustained shelling by the Syrian army throughout Saturday. Fighting between army troops and rebels raged around Idlib province, in and around Aleppo and on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, the Observatory said.
Earlier, Syria's state-run news agency reported that Damascus supported a proposal by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to find a "mechanism of direct security communication between Syria and Turkey."
SANA reported that Syrian government officials and Russia's ambassador in Damascus discussed ways to establish a joint Syrian-Turkish security committee that would "control the security situation on both sides of the border in the framework of respecting the national sovereignty of the two countries."
Turkey has made no comment on the proposal, and it is unclear whether Moscow has presented it to the Turkish government yet.
Barbara Surk in Beirut and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.
Also on HuffPost:
Despite major defections and a July 18. explosion in Damascus that killed four top generals, including President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law, the regime's inner circle is still powerful and united against the opposition. Assad's inner circle includes his younger brother, Maher, who commands the forces in charge of protecting the capital. It also includes the heads of the four intelligence agencies playing a major role in the crackdown. Although regime forces lost parts of the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest, government troops still control most cities, while the opposition dominates large parts of the countryside. <em>Caption: This June 13, 2000, file photo shows Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, his brother Maher, center, and brother-in-law Major General Assef Shawkat, left. (AP Photo, File)</em>
Free Syrian Army
The main rebel fighting force for more than a year, the Free Syrian Army includes lightly-armed volunteer militiamen and defectors from Assad's military. Its overall strength and structure is unclear, but tens of thousands are believed be loyal to the group. The rebels have control over some northern areas, allowing movement of fighters and supplies from Turkey and Lebanon. Anti-Assad forces have failed to maintain any strategic footholds in big cities, being driven back from key neighborhoods in Homs earlier this year and now apparently losing ground in the largest urban center, Aleppo. The battles also suggest only weak direction from central commanders - including Turkey-based Free Syrian Army leader Riad al-Asaad. <em>Caption: In this citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network SNN, taken on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, Free Syrian Army soldiers pose for a photograph, in Sarmada, Idlib province, northern Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)</em>
Syrian National Council
Based in Istanbul, the SNC has emerged as the main political opposition to Assad and has pushed for international recognition as the legitimate representative of the uprising, despite rifts with other Syrian factions. The group also has been hit by internal feuds that have led some senior members to quit. The current leader, Abdelbaset Sieda, is a Swedish-based activist for Syria's minority Kurdish community. The SNC has gained support from many countries in the West and Arab world, but it has not galvanized international backing, and critics complain its senior leadership is made up mostly of exiles out of touch with their homeland. <em>Caption: The members of the Syrian National Council and its head Abdulbaset Sieda, center, arrive for a meeting with Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, July 23, 2012.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)</em>
The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change
A rival to the SNC, the National Coordination Committee is led by opposition figures inside Syria, many of them former political prisoners. SNC members accuse the group of being far too lenient and willing to engage in dialogue with the regime. In turn, the National Coordination Committee accuses the SNC of being a front for Western powers and willing to open the door to the Muslim Brotherhood and other conservative Islamist factions. <em>Caption: Member of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, Morhaf Mickael speaks during a meeting of Syrian opposition parties in Brussels on Sunday, June 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)</em>
On Assad's side are traditional Shiite allies Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. <em>Caption: In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, meets with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)</em>
The regime also has important political cover from Russia and China, which have used their Security Council vetoes to prevent U.N. sanctions on Syria. <em>Caption: In this Jan. 25, 2005 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow. (AP Photo/Sergei Chirikov)</em>
The rebels have built an array of regional support that includes the wealthy Gulf states - led by Iran rival Saudi Arabia - and neighboring Turkey, which offers key supply routes. The West also backs the rebel forces, but has so far opposed mobilizing international military support similar to the NATO-led airstrikes that helped topple Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya. <em>Caption: From left, Bahrain's Foreign Minister, Sheik Khalid bin AhmedI bin Mohammed al-Khalifa, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu and United Arab Emirates' Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan seenduring a group photo during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Foreign ministers meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 (AP Photo)</em>
Syria has drawn foreign fighters just as other recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan. No credible count on them exists, but anecdotal evidence suggests foreigners are coming to fight Assad. Rebel commanders downplay the presence of foreign fighters, saying their cause is a purely Syrian uprising. Mohammed Idilbi, a Syrian activist based in Turkey, says foreign ranks include Libyans, Yemenis, Tunisians and Lebanese. On Saturday, Syria's official SANA news agency claimed four Libyans were among rebels killed in Aleppo. <em>Caption: In this Sept. 18, 2011 file photo, former rebel fighters celebrate as smoke rises from Bani Walid, Libya, at the northern gate of the town. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini, File)</em>
U.S. officials and others worry that Syria could become a new foothold for insurgents inspired by al-Qaida. Assessing the degree of radical Islamic ideology in the civil war is impossible, but at least one group, the al-Nusra Front, has emerged and declared allegiance to the Free Syrian Army. Al-Nusra, or Victory, has claimed responsibility for several high profile attacks, including a double suicide bombing in March that killed 27 people in Damascus and the execution-style killing of a Syrian television presenter who was abducted in July. On Friday, U.S. intelligence officials said al-Qaida has advanced beyond isolated pockets in Syria and now is building a network of well-organized cells that could include several hundred militants. <em>Caption: This photo shows Al-Qaida's new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a still image from a web posting by al-Qaida's media arm, as-Sahab, Wednesday July 27, 2011. Al-Qaida's new leader has lauded protesters in Syria for seeking to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/IntelCenter) </em>