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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid