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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs