News / Middle East

Turkey, Syria Approaching Diplomatic Rift

Members of Syrian oppositions (L-R) Ahmed Ramadan, Khaled Hassaleh, Hassan Hashmi, Lovay Safi, Abdul Basit Sida, Adip Shishakil, Hassan Shalabi attend a news conference after meeting in Istanbul, August 23, 2011
Members of Syrian oppositions (L-R) Ahmed Ramadan, Khaled Hassaleh, Hassan Hashmi, Lovay Safi, Abdul Basit Sida, Adip Shishakil, Hassan Shalabi attend a news conference after meeting in Istanbul, August 23, 2011

Turkey's prime minister and its president have announced they have lost confidence in the Syrian leadership, while the foreign minister warned that Ankara will side with the Syrian protesters against Damascus if forced to choose. The statements are seen as a possible final diplomatic breaking point between the former close allies.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in an interview over the weekend, described the government gestures in Syria as too little, too late as the Syrian crackdown against opposition continues. That message was followed up by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a TV address to the nation Sunday in which he strongly attacked Damascus.

He said a government cannot survive by force or brutality or by shooting and killing unarmed people taking to the streets. He said the only solution is to silence arms immediately and listen to the demands of the people. Mr. Erdogan said the world saw the end of those who did not choose this way in Tunisia and in Egypt, and now observes with sorrow what is being lived in Libya.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses the media in Ankara, August 10, 2011
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses the media in Ankara, August 10, 2011

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a TV interview last week said Turkey would always side with the people against the Syrian government, if it came down to a choice. The sustained verbal attack comes weeks after an ultimatum by Mr. Davutoglu calling for an immediate cessation of violence by the Syrian security forces.

Despite the continuation of the crackdown, however, Ankara appeared to have done little, drawing criticism from both the opposition and the media. But a Turkish diplomatic source says diplomacy works to a different calendar than 24-hour journalism, and repercussions are occurring. He said earlier this month, the Turkish foreign minister for the first time met with Syrian opposition leaders.

Diplomatic Columnist Semih Idiz said Ankara may have been "too reluctant to meet with the opposition."

"But there was no reluctance in allowing the opposition to meet in Turkey. So this is the next step. We are now at the stage [where] there is nothing left to be said to Syria. So at this point, given that nothing Turkey has recommended has been followed through by Syria and the violence is continuing," said Idiz. "So under these circumstances, Turkey sees little option but courting the opposition a little."

Syrian opposition leaders had criticized Ankara for failing to reach out to them. But Istanbul has become a regular venue for their meetings.

Last week, some opposition groups announced the formation of a Syrian transitional council, along the lines of what the rebels have done in Libya. International relations expert Soli Ozel says Turkey's ruling AK party with its Islamic roots will find it easy to develop ties with the Syrian opposition.

"Ideologically they have far more sympathy for the [Muslim] brotherhood, which is probably the backbone of the opposition," said Ozel.

A Syrian demonstrator in Turkey makes the victory sign as she against the government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Istanbul, August 12, 2011
A Syrian demonstrator in Turkey makes the victory sign as she against the government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Istanbul, August 12, 2011

But Ankara still resists calls from its Western allies to support Syrian sanctions, claiming it hurts the people more than the government. It also has stopped short of calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand down, or to follow the stance of Saudi Arabia and Tunisia in recalling their ambassadors earlier this month.

Political scientist Nuray Mert says even with the hardening of Ankara's stance towards its neighbor, it still has to tread carefully.

"Our relations [are] very complicated in many ways, including the Kurdish dimension. But it's also related [to] the problem concerning Iran. If there is going to be a regime change in Syria, the whole power balance will change," said Mert. "Because if Iran loses Syria, they will lose an important base of power in the Middle East, in the region. So it will be a major defeat for Iran and within this framework if Turkey sides with the dissidents and supports some sort of regime change. Iran will take it directly against itself."

Earlier this month, Mr. Assad reached out to his Kurdish minority, offering them nationality. Observers say with Syrian Kurds making up a large part of the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, which is fighting the Turkish state, Ankara is increasingly concerned Damascus could be tempted to play the Kurdish card against it, as it did in the 1990s.

Turkey's ruling AK party also has developed unprecedented political and economic ties with Tehran. According to the media, last week, Mr. Erdogan spoke for nearly an hour on the phone in Istanbul with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Syria. As the violence continues in Syria, observers warn Turkey's regional balancing act can only become more difficult.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid