News

    Syrian Opposition Eyes Turkey for Arms Support

    Syrian refugees gather up before a walk outside their camp in Reyhanli, Turkey, Sunday, March 4, 2012.
    Syrian refugees gather up before a walk outside their camp in Reyhanli, Turkey, Sunday, March 4, 2012.
    Dorian Jones

    The Syrian National Council has called for a bureau to be created for facilitating arms to the opposition in Syria. This is posing a dilemma for Ankara, which has been strongly supporting the opposition but has refrained, at least publicly, from backing the arming of the opposition.

    Ankara has refrained from commenting on the Syrian National Council's call for a bureau to be created to provide armed support for the Free Syrian Army, an armed militia that is fighting against Syrian security forces. The Syrian National Council, or SNC, an umbrella organization made up of opposition groups, made the call on Thursday in Paris and named Turkey as a possible location for the bureau.

    But at a meeting on Friday between the SNC leadership and Turkey's foreign minister, both sides denied discussing the issue, saying the talks focused on the next gathering of the international group "Friends of Syria," scheduled to be held later this month in Istanbul.

    The "Friends of Syria," brings together Arab and Western countries supporting the Syrian opposition.

    Ankara continues to keep up the pressure on Damascus over its bloody crackdown on dissent.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Saturday launched the latest attack against the Syrian government at a press conference with his Italian counterpart.

    He said the Syrian army is massacring its own people - whereas before the government was using live rounds only against protesters, it is now shelling civilian neighborhoods indiscriminately. Davutoglu said this is not acceptable, even in war.

    Turkey claims it has given sanctuary to around 10,000 Syrians fleeing the ongoing crackdown. With Syrian forces now moving towards resistance centers close to the Turkish border, more are expected to follow.

    Ankara also has allowed the opposition Syrian National Council and members of the Free Syrian Army to be based in its territory. But the Turkish government has resisted, at least publicly, in supporting the arming of the opposition.  

    Semih Idiz, a diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, says the SNC's public calls for arming the opposition have embarrassed Ankara.

    "Well, it leaves Turkey in a difficult situation. It contradicts a lot of positions in the past. Namely, about non-interference [in] other countries' domestic affairs. Engaging in this kind of power play with military involvement in another country actually stands to rebound on Turkey in other ways," Idiz said.

    Ankara fears that any support for arming the opposition in a neighboring country could open the door to retaliation by Damascus by offering support to the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK. The PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for greater rights since 1984, and many of its members are Syrian Kurds.

    But international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University warns that with Syria's crackdown intensifying, Ankara's room to maneuver is becoming increasingly limited.

    "Turkey is caught between [a] rock and [a] hard place. It has made a lot of claims about its power and influence. It is being drawn [into] a quagmire and [is] being asked to do things it does not actually want to do. Absolutely, Turkey wants the cover of some kind of international legitimacy, which it could not get from the U.N. Security Council," Ozel said.

    Observers say support from the United Nations Security Council is unlikely, with permanent members China and Russia predicted to oppose any such move. Last month, both countries vetoed a motion that would have punished Syria for its crackdown.

    Diplomatic columnist Idiz says the upcoming Syrian opposition forum could ultimately provide the means for Ankara to openly support the armed opposition.

    "If there is a kind of consensus that has emerged among the so-called "Friends of Syria" group, I think yes. Because Turkey has engaged itself very strongly against Assad. If Assad continues to hammer his own people, then I think will be left with no choice. It will try to use the argument that had there been intervention in time [in] Bosnia, then 250,000 people may not have died," Idiz said.

    There is speculation that Ankara is already providing armed support to the Syrian opposition, or at least facilitating it - a claim that Ankara strongly denies. Observers warn there is already growing unease in the country that Turkey is in danger of losing control of its own destiny in the deepening crisis in Syria. Those concerns seem destined to grow, with Damascus showing little sign of letting up in its bloody crackdown on dissent.

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
    Middle East Voices
    . Follow our Middle East reports on
    Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora