International pressure on Syria increased after President Bashar al-Assad called for a national dialogue on political change and blamed anti-government protests on a foreign conspiracy.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "underlined the necessity to speed up the reform process in Syria in order to meet the demands of the Syrian people," according to a statement on the website of Erdogan's office today after the leaders spoke by telephone, according to BusinessWeek.
The government, which long equated almost any dissent with sedition, has suggested it may choose whom it will speak to; Mr. Assad mentioned the possibility of more than 100 people, though the government has yet to say who they may be.
The divide seemed to underline the criticism voiced by many opposition activists on Monday: The proposal is a bid for time in a country that may be running out of it, reports New York Times.
Makhlouf told the New York Times in an interview last month that Syria's ruling family will fight protesters "to the end" and hinted that Israel's stability could be threatened if Assad was toppled.
In a rare public statement, Syrian authorities said that Makhlouf was a private citizen and that his views did not represent the Syrian state, says Reuters.