Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
International pressure mounted on Syria Thursday to immediately halt its violent
crackdown on protesters. In a meeting on Thursday between Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu and a top Syrian envoy, the Turkish government called on Syria to pass
democratic reforms while demanding a halt to violence which, according to human
rights groups, has left 1,300 Syrians dead.
The crackdown, which Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned as “savagery,” has tested relations
between the two countries, with some 8,900 Syrian refugees having crossed into
'Assad forces make sweeping arrests in Syria's northwest'
Erdogan to Assad: Stop the violence, implement reforms
“We want a strong, stable, prosperous Syria. To achieve
this, we believe it necessary to implement the comprehensive reform process
toward democratization guaranteed by [President] Bashar al-Assad,” Davutoglu
told reporters after three hours of talks with Syrian envoy Hassan Turkmani on
“In order to achieve this, the violence must stop
Yesterday, I clearly saw the fear in the eyes of the people
and I shared this,” he added, describing talks with Turkmani as friendly and
Syria as Turkey’s “closest friend.”
United Nations Secretary- General Ban
Ki-moon said on Thursday he had spoken to Assad and urged him to “stop killing
people” and to engage in dialogue.
Speaking to journalists during a visit
to Brazil’s capital, Ban also said he hoped the UN would be able to speak in a
“coherent” manner regarding Syria.
“I again strongly urge President Assad
to stop killing people and engage in inclusive dialogue and to take bold
measures before it’s too late,” Ban said.
The ongoing violent crackdown
of the Syrian uprising and the continued influx of refugees into southern Turkey
are wreaking havoc on relations between the two countries, a Turkish expert told
The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Henri J. Barkey, a visiting scholar in the
Carnegie Middle East Program and a professor at the Bernard L. and Bertha
Cohen center at Lehigh University said Thursday that “there is a
serious rupture between Turkey and Syria at the moment, and if the violence
continues in Syria, it’s going to get worse.”
Barkey said that a possible
turning point occurred over the weekend, when Assad sent troops backed by
helicopters and tanks into the northwest town of Jisr al-Shughur near the
“Bashar made a strategic error by going after that town
in the northwest corner which forced Syrians to flee to Turkey.”
said that the Turkish government advised Assad early on in the uprisings to make
a serious push for reforms and that according to Turkish authorities he has
spoken to, Ankara has been very disappointed with Assad’s refusal to do
Barkey said that Erdogan and his government are very clearly advising
Assad to change his methods “but Bashar won’t listen to him because he and the
regime are in the fight for their life.” Barkey added, “I don’t think reforms
can save Assad and it’s unlikely he will heed Erdogan’s advice.”
Turkish perspective, Erdogan cannot just completely write off Assad and must
continue to be careful because “they [Syrians] are their neighbors, they aren’t
Furthermore, Assad’s refusal to heed Erdogan’s advice is
putting a serious strain on the countries’ “neighbors” policy and is tarnishing
Erdogan’s decision in recent years to broaden relations with Assad.
such a situation, examining a possible timeframe for the end of the Assad regime
is of utmost importance for Ankara, Barkey said.
To Barkey, the main
consideration for Turkey is: “How do you calculate the odds of Bashar staying?
You also have the example of Libya where [Muammar] Gaddafi is in power even
after all of this bombing. If you are Erdogan, you might think that Bashar is
finished but you don’t know how long it will last and how do you manage the next
few years, so they may be vacillating because there is no blueprint for a
situation like that. So they’re trying to come up with some policy that makes
When it comes to the prospect of a Turkish military intervention,
such as the establishment of a no-fly zone or a safe area for Syria refugees,
Barkey said he believes such a scenario is a “non-starter.”
that he believes Erdogan’s way out of the conflict “is to work with the
Americans and Europeans on this and have Turkey lead in some sort of anti-Assad
Davutoglu on Wednesday talked to refugees at the border,
including wounded men in camp hospitals at Yayladagi, 20 kilometers from the
Syrian town of Jisr al-Shughour.
Refugees chanted “People want freedom!”
and “Erdogan help us!” On Thursday, Syrian tanks and armored vehicles reinforced
positions around the northern town of Maarat al-Numaan after thousands of people
fled Assad’s crackdown on dissent.
Residents and a Syrian rights group
said dozens of tanks and personnel carriers deployed around Khan Sheikhoun, a
town about 30 kilometers south of Maarat al- Numaan on the main highway linking
Damascus and Aleppo, as well as to the east and the west.