Amid violence next door, Turkey awaits more talks on Syria
With not a lot of options, Turkey opts for more talks on Syria.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 15/02/12
With violence in Syria escalating and diplomatic efforts deadlocked at the UN, Turkey eyes new international pressure on Damascus at upcoming talks in Tunis. This, after the Arab League's request to create a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force in Syria was rejected by Damascus and Russia this week.
Syrian tanks roll through Homs, as heavy fighting and shelling in the city over the past 11 days have prompted calls by Turkey for humanitarian aid to be sent to the city. [Reuters]
According to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the February 24th Friends of Syria meeting in the Tunisian capital will be "an important international platform to show solidarity to the Syrian people".
"The message that the UN Security Council failed to pass [a resolution on Syria] should be sent from Tunisia," he told SES Türkiye on Monday (February 13th).
Turkey's push for an international gathering of like-minded states to develop a new strategy on Syria comes despite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's refusal to yield to diplomatic efforts to resolve the nearly year-long crisis.
"We can't close our eyes to a massacre in our back yard," the minister said on the sidelines of meetings in Washington, DC.
Meanwhile, Davutoglu said providing humanitarian aid to cities under attack by the Syrian Army is the most urgent issue.
"I spoke with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday about the matter. We should reach out to people who are suffering because of the shortage of food, medicine everywhere in Syria."
Asked whether his country is providing arms to Syria's opposition, Davutoglu said, "Our support is limited to accepting refugees and those who need urgent help … We've never interfered into the domestic issues of any countries."
In Ankara, policymakers remain jittery over the future stability of Syria and the options facing Turkey.
"At this point, Turkey doesn't have a lot of options. There was no UN decision to intervene in Syria, and the Arab League has no enforcement power, so Turkey is desperate on this issue," Mehmet Sandir, MHP deputy-chairman and chairman of the now defunct Turkey-Syria Friendship Group in parliament, told SES Türkiye.
"This issue needs new economic and diplomatic sanctions and some more time," he added.
In Syria, there are three main views about what the Syrians want from the international community and Turkey.
"Some in the Syrian opposition abroad are calling for arms, saying that the West and the Arabs should help arm the Free Syrian Army, now that the 'political solutions' have been drowned by the recent double veto at the UN," Sami Moubayed, a Damascus-based political analyst and editor-in-chief of Syria's Forward Magazine, told SES Türkiye.
A minority, he said, are calling for direct military intervention -- with or without a UN mandate.
"I don't think there is an appetite in the West for military intervention, and the majority of Syrians living in Syria don't want that. They make up the third view. Militarisation of the Syrian crisis would be too costly, politically and in terms of human life, and would drag the country along the lines of Libya -- which is a nightmare to the vast majority of Syrians," he underlined.
Therefore, most Syrians want a peaceful political solution to the crisis, with minimal damage, that would guarantee a smooth transition of power.
According to Moubayed, Turkey has lost a lot of credibility in Syria because it has "spoken loudly with nothing but words".
"Now there is talk of a no-fly zone, yet again, which supposedly will be imposed by the Turks. It is not new; we have been hearing it for months, and it is very difficult for Turkey, politically and militarily, especially with no UN-mandate," he underscored.
Edward Dark, an activist from Aleppo and editor of the website Syrialeaks, says Syrians expected much more from Turkey.
"What is needed right now is multilateral action, with the US, Turkey, Europe and the Arab league being the main parties, and Turkey taking a leading role in implementing things on the ground," he says.
"Syrians would not see Turkish troops as enemies, because they are Muslim, unlike European or American troops, which are unacceptable," he told SES Türkiye.
"A buffer zone and humanitarian corridors are a necessary next step as the violence continues to escalate," he added.
Sandir, however, does not believe that Ankara is seriously thinking of establishing a buffer zone that would extend into Syrian territory.
"The buffer zone would be a very difficult option," he cautioned, adding that Turkey's hand may yet be forced if the situation in Syria deteriorates dramatically and a flood of refugees moves towards the Syrian-Turkish border.