Assad Makes Tactical Move By Pledging Peace, Erdogan Says / And more from the Turkish Press (GateStone Institute) by AK Group 03/30/12)
GateStone Institute Articles-Index-Top
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, expressing mistrust of Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad, claimed Assad has made a tactical move by
pledging peace in order to manipulate the results of this weekend´s
key Syria gathering in his favor.
Damascus has accepted a cease-fire and six-point peace plan drafted
by United Nations and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, his
spokesman, Ahmed Favzi, said on Tuesday.
En route to Tehran after attending a nuclear security conference in
Seoul, Erdoğan said Assad is attempting to influence public opinion
before the second Friends of Syria meeting in İstanbul on April 1 and
ruled out the possibility that the Syrian president is genuine in his
promises to quell violence in the country.
"Even though we used to have a close relationship with Assad, he
hasn´t stuck to the promises [to make democratic reforms] he
repeatedly made to us. Making promises is one of his frequently used
tactics," Erdoğan said.
"Before the UN meetings, Arab League meetings and the first Friends
of Syria meeting, he [Assad] made similar promises and wanted to have
an influence on the decisions of those meetings. Now, he is trying to
influence the results of the İstanbul [Friends of Syria] meeting in a
tactical move. However, I don´t believe him. If only he was sincere,"
The Foreign Ministry also has expressed similar caution for Assad´s
"We hope that Assad´s decision [to accept Annan´s plan] will not turn
out to be an act to buy time [to conduct more violence]," said
Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal.
Syrian National Council, or SNC, leader Burhan Ghalioun, speaking
from İstanbul, said Assad´s recent move is a strategy to divert
attention from the ongoing violence in Syria and to cover up new
assaults in the country.
Syrian opposition groups convened in İstanbul on Tuesday to seek a
common front for their year-old uprising against Assad. Meanwhile,
conflicts sprang up on Tuesday on Syria´s Lebanese border,
vindicating Turkey and the Syrian opposition´s suspicions of Assad´s
While Assad visited the besieged Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs as a
show of good intention to end violence, Syrian troops advanced into
north Lebanon, destroying farm buildings and clashing with Syrian
rebels, residents said.
Annan´s six-point plan includes a number of appeals to the Syrian
regime, such as ensuring an immediate UN-supervised truce between the
regime and the opposition forces, intensifying the pace and scale of
the release of arbitrarily detained persons and allowing the freedom
of movement for journalists across the country.
Syria To Recall Its Turkish Envoy
Syrian-Turkish relations seem to have chilled further after Turkey
withdrew its ambassador in Damascus. In a retaliatory move to the
closure of Turkey´s embassy in Damascus on Monday, the Syrian regime
has recalled a significant number of its diplomatic staff in Turkey
Mounzer Mounzer, Syria´s ambassador to Turkey, is also expected to
return to Syria soon. Syria will downgrade its diplomatic
representation to the level of junior chargé d´affaires in reaction
to Turkey´s move to cut diplomatic relations, according to reports.
Ömer Önhon, Turkey´s ambassador to Syria, has already returned to
Turkey after being recalled by the Turkish government.
Arab League Shuns Turkey, Iran On Syria
The Arab League has shunned Turkey and Iran from a Thursday meeting
regarding Syria in Baghdad, seemingly intending to distance itself
from Ankara-led aggressive policies against Damascus that prioritize
toppling President Bashar al-Assad from power.
Turkey was not invited to the Baghdad meeting even though Turkish
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has worked closely with Arab League
Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi since the early days of the Arab
Spring; Turkey has observer status at the body and Ankara has
participated in almost every crucial summit held by the 22-country
Though officials have said the meeting was closed to all non-Arab
countries, including Turkey and Iran, a senior European Union
official will take part in the summit, with the executive secretary-
general of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont,
scheduled to represent Brussels at the meeting.
There are three main reasons for Turkey´s exclusion from the meeting.
The first is the current chilly relationship between Ankara and
Baghdad over the latter´s accusations that the Turkish government is
seeking to increase its influence in its southern neighbor. Iraqi
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki objected to Turkey´s participation,
the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.
Maliki and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan found themselves at
odds earlier this year because Ankara believes al-Maliki is acting as
an offshoot of the Iranian administration and provides a link between
Tehran and Damascus.
As Iraq assumes the term presidency of the Arab League, the league´s
relations with Ankara are likely to become bumpier during this
period. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was explicit in
expressing his government´s concern over the growing influence of
regional powers Turkey and Iran inside Iraq in an interview with the
Wall Street Journal.
"This summit will enhance our position to stand on our feet vis-à-vis
these regional powers," he said, accusing Turkey and Iran
of "competing to fill the vacuum in Iraq in the absence of an Iraqi
representative, strong, national unity government."
Arab League Went Too Fast On Syria
The second reason for Turkey´s exclusion from the meeting seems to
stem from the Arab League´s intention to distance itself from the
policies of Turkey and some Western powers, which are focused on
Divided over Assad´s future, the members of the Arab League will
likely endorse Kofi Annan´s mission, which has received a positive
response from Damascus. The Annan Plan is perceived as much more
realistic than other competing plans in many Arab countries, which
are growing increasingly suspicious of the Friends of Syria
Some Arab countries believe the league moved too quickly in demanding
that al-Assad leave office -- losing some political maneuvering room
by doing so. They have also laid part of the blame on Arabi for
remaining under the influence of Davutoğlu, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Related to these differing positions over Syria, the third reason for
Turkey´s exclusion reflects growing concerns about rising Turkish
interference in the Arab world´s internal affairs. A good majority of
Arab politicians, scholars and journalists suspect that increasing
Turkish influence carries with it the motive of glorifying the
Ottoman past, something the Turkish diplomatic establishment strongly
Annan Not Participating To Syria Talks In Istanbul
The joint United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria, Kofi
Annan, will not participate in the meeting of the Friends of Syria
Group in Istanbul on April 1.
Nasser al-Kidwa, the UN-Arab League deputy joint special envoy for
Syria, will attend instead, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet
Daily News. Despite having been invited by Turkey to attend the
Istanbul meeting, Annan has to participate in a UN Security Council
briefing on early April 2, sources said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will also not be able to attend the
Friends of Syria meeting due to the same briefing. Lynn Pascoe,
Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, will represent the UN
on behalf of Ban, sources said.
The meeting of top diplomats in Turkey comes after Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad accepted Annan´s six-point plan calling for a daily
two-hour humanitarian ceasefire and access to all areas affected by
the fighting in Syria, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a
right to demonstrate, and the release of people detained arbitrarily.
Annan Asks ´Low Profile´
Annan is expected to lay out a road map to achieve his peace plan
during briefing to the UN Security Council. Annan has asked some
Western powers to take a low profile on the issue of the Syrian
crisis for the sake of his peace plan, now that al-Assad has accepted
it, the Daily News has learned. Meanwhile, Syrian National Council
Chairman Burhan Ghalioun ruled out a dialogue and asked Assad step
down in a statement on Tuesday. Meanwhile, military action against
towns and villages from the southern province of Deraa to the cities
of Hama and Homs were reported.
Syrian forces backed by tanks stormed the central town of Qalaat al-
Madiq, killing at least 13 people, activists said Tuesday.
Dissidents May Unite If Committee Re-Elected
Syrian opposition groups have expressed their desire for unity, with
some groups having set the deadline for re-electing the Executive
Committee of the Syrian National Council to three weeks.
"We prepared a protocol which foresees the re-election of the
executive committee in three weeks´ time. If the council members do
not sign the protocol, we will quit from the declaration and we won´t
accept them as the representative of the Syrian opposition," Tariq El
Saed, a Syrian dissident from the opposition bloc formed by five
different opposition groups, told the Hürriyet Daily News on
Syria´s splintered opposition leaders announced they had reunited
under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council on Tuesday, in a
bid to show the world they could form a real alternative to President
Bashar al-Assad. Early on in the talks in a seaside hotel, veteran
dissident Haitham al-Maler and Kurdish delegates walked out, saying
their views were not being heard.
Freed Turkish Journalist At European Parliament
Journalist Ahmet Şık sharply criticized Turkey´s anti-terrorism laws
and the religious Fethullah Gülen community while addressing the
Liberal Democrat Group in the European Parliament in Brussels
Wednesday, just 16 days after his release from prison.
"Many a journalist who assumed a critical stance toward the AKP
[Justice and Development Party] and the Gülen community, the
government´s invisible partner, [or] attempted to maintain a
dissident outlook toward their policies, either lost their job or had
to keep quiet through auto-censure," Şık told an audience at the
Şık cited the names of Ruşen Çakır, Nuray Mert, Çiğdem Anad and
Mehmet Altan as some of the journalists who were fired after slight
criticisms and went on to elaborate on the elusive nature of the
"The Gülen community is a phantom. They are everywhere but nowhere.
They are the cause of fear in society because they control the
police," he said.
An explanation is warranted as to why the Gülen community is so eager
to organize within the police and the military, Şık said, adding that
he had also been targeted by the community because he asked such
"This system has to distort everything, as it has been enslaved by
its own lies. It distorts the past. It distorts the present. It
distorts the future," Şık said, paraphrasing a 1978 article by former
activist and late Czech President Vaclav Havel.
The Gülen community is both avenging the past and trying to destroy
its political opponents by organizing within the judiciary and the
police, according to Şık.
"The anti-terrorism law [depicts] everyone who is a dissident or
exhibits unfavorable behavior as a ´terrorist,´ through a mentality
that is based on protecting not the interests of citizens, but of the
state. The State Security Courts, which were allegedly abolished,
have changed only in name. The legal but lawless order of the past
still rules the day under the [guise] of specially authorized
prosecutors and courts," he said.
Şık also rebuffed claims that journalists jailed in Turkey are not
under arrest for their professional activities and said the
prosecutors and judges who questioned them primarily asked about
their journalistic activities and sources.
Turkish Commander Inspects Troops On Syria Border In Surprise Visit
Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu on Wednesday traveled to
the border province of Kilis to inspect Turkish troops, accompanied
by Gen. Servet Yörüklü, Second Army commander, who visited a Syrian
refugee camp in the town of Öncüpınar. They also had talks with
Governor Yusuf Odabaş before he inspected Turkish troops along the
border later in the day.
Kıvrıkoğlu and Yörüklü already visited a brigade in the İskenderun
district of Hatay, also on the Syrian border, on Tuesday evening.
The generals´ surprise visit comes after Turkey recently raised the
possibility of establishing a buffer zone in the event of a massive
influx of refugees from Syria, as well as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdoğan´s talks in Tehran, which focused on the latest developments
in Syria. Analysts say such a move is likely to lead to armed
confrontations between Turkish and Syrian forces.
Turkey has bitterly criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad´s
brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests and said it would offer help
to Syrians fleeing from violence.
In 1998, when tension was running high with Syria due to its support
for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers´ Party, or PKK, which has waged a
bloody war in Turkey´s southeast since 1984, former Land Forces
Commander Gen. Atilla Ateş visited the Reyhanlı Border Command in the
southern province of Hatay, where he made harsh statements against
Turkish gendarmes on Tuesday detained three Syrians who were carrying
explosives as they were trying to enter a tent city hosting nine
generals who defected from the Syrian army.
The three Syrians attempted to enter the tent city near the village
of Apaydın in the Altınözü district in the province of Hatay on
Tuesday, telling gendarmes guarding the refugee camp that they were
staying there with relatives. The three men, identified only as A.İ.,
S.M. and H.M., were instead taken to a gendarmerie station for
questioning after gendarmes searched them and found the explosive
An investigation is under way following the discovery of explosives.
A subsequent search of the camp revealed that there were no other
explosive devices inside the camp, but security was heightened in
Syrian refugee camps across Hatay. Last week, security personnel
confiscated three grenades before they were smuggled into a refugee
camp in Hatay´s Reyhanlı district.
More than 17,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey to escape violence in
their country. In addition to the refugees, Turkey has also emerged
as the main haven for Syrian opposition groups and fighters.
Prime Minister In Iran, Venue For Nuclear Talks Unclear
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated Turkey´s
readiness to host nuclear talks in Istanbul between Iran and the P5+1
countries, while the Iranian foreign minister said the date has been
set as April 13.
"We had made a proposal to hold the nuclear meeting in Istanbul. The
Iranian foreign minister had expressed a desire to hold the nuclear
negotiations in Istanbul. We are waiting for the decision of the P5+1
[U.N. Security Council members plus Germany]," Erdoğan said at a
press conference with Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi in
"The date has been set as April 13, but the negotiations for the
venue are still ongoing," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi
said. "Turkey has announced its readiness to host the talks, and my
personal preference is Istanbul," he added.
The foreign minister said a "suggestion" from the P5+1 for a venue
had been received and was being studied; the location "will be
announced soon." The talks carry hopes of defusing a tense
international showdown over Iran´s nuclear activities that has sent
oil prices soaring.
Ahead of meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where he
will discuss Iran´s nuclear program and crisis in Syria, Erdoğan said
there were positive developments regarding the nuclear talks at the
nuclear summit in Seoul.
"We wish to make a positive contribution to this process. Turkey is
the third country that has been closely monitoring the process," the
prime minister said. Erdoğan also slammed the bellicose language
directed against Iran, saying: "Military threats against a country
that seeks to master peaceful nuclear technology are not acceptable."
Before his Tehran visit, Erdoğan was in South Korea, where he took
part in a nuclear security summit and held talks with United States
President Barack Obama. There have been unconfirmed reports that
Erdoğan is carrying a message to Iran from Obama, who warned at the
start of the nuclear summit Monday that "time is short" for a
diplomatic solution to the standoff with Iran.
"Iran must act with the seriousness and sense of urgency that this
moment demands," Obama said.
The last round of Iran and P5+1 talks was held in Istanbul in January
2011 and ended in failure. The round before that, in late 2010, was
in Geneva. Erdoğan, who was accompanied by several key ministers and
intelligence and military officials is expected to meet with supreme
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei during his visit.
The United Nations has imposed four rounds of sanctions against
Tehran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that
can be used to produce nuclear fuel or materials for a bomb. Also,
the European Union, as well as the U.S. and others, have imposed an
oil embargo as part of sanctions to pressure Tehran into resuming
talks on the country´s nuclear program.
They have also imposed tough banking sanctions aimed at limiting
Iran´s ability to sell oil, which accounts for 80 percent of its
foreign revenue. Meanwhile, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said
Turkey complies with international law, but has its own will to
decide regarding trade with Iran.
Turkey Offers Help With Iranian Nuke Talks, Refutes ´Imposition´
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won Iranian praises by
rejecting outside pressure to prevent countries from acquiring
nuclear energy for peaceful purposes during a visit to Tehran. He
also said the P5+1 group´s opposition to have the next round of talks
on Iran´s nuclear program may have softened.
Erdoğan, who is in Tehran for talks with President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials, has once again defended the
right of nations to pursue nuclear energy as long as it is for
peaceful purposes and reiterated that Turkey is ready to host talks
between Iran and world powers to bring about a negotiated settlement
in the dispute over Tehran´s nuclear program.
"No one has the right to impose anything on anyone with regards to
nuclear energy, provided that it is for peaceful purposes," Erdoğan
said at a news conference after talks with Iranian First Vice
President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. "Everyone with commonsense opposes
The United States and its allies have accused Iran of pursuing
nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies the charge, saying its
nuclear enrichment program is only for the purpose of generating
Erdoğan arrived in Tehran from South Korea, where he attended a
nuclear security summit and also held talks with President Barack
Turkey has built close economic ties with Iran and has been at odds
with Washington over the best way to get Tehran to halt its nuclear
program, arguing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff instead of
sanctions. However, Turkey has also decided to host a NATO defense
shield radar that would warn of any Iranian ballistic missiles in the
region, sparking protests from some Iranian officials.
The last round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the group of
P5+1, consisting of the five permanent members of the United Nations
Security Council and Germany, was held in İstanbul in January 2011,
but ended without agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said earlier Wednesday that
he favored İstanbul as the venue for the April talks but that a final
decision will be made by top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili
and European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton within the
"İstanbul has expressed its readiness to host these talks and it
remains one of the probable options for the negotiations," Salehi
told the official IRNA news agency.
Erdoğan reiterated Turkey´s readiness to provide the venue for a new
round of talks and indicated that the opposition from Western
countries to have the meeting in İstanbul may have softened.
Referring to Salehi´s remarks, Erdoğan said his talks in South Korea
also revealed promising developments regarding the P5+1´s stance
toward having the meeting in İstanbul.
"Based on the information we obtained in South Korea, there are also
positive developments concerning the other side. I think we need to
wait for their statement as well," Erdoğan said. "We hope to make
positive contributions to this process because we have been following
this case most closely as a third country."
Rahimi said Iran firmly supported İstanbul hosting the upcoming talks
and praised Turkey for its insistent support for countries´ rights to
acquire nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The Iranian official
said Wednesday´s talks with Erdoğan further advanced
the "brotherhood" between Iran and Turkey.
"It is known to everyone that Iran wants to use nuclear energy only
for peaceful purposes. Our brothers in Turkey know about this better
than anyone because we are neighboring countries," he said, adding
that his country has invested extensively in the peaceful use of
nuclear energy. "We are ready to offer our services to Turkey, other
Muslim nations and all of humanity. The West does not want us to make
strides in the scientific field. It wants to keep the monopoly [on
access to nuclear energy]."
Erdoğan and Rahimi also announced readiness to increase the bilateral
trade volume from the current $16 billion to $35 billion by the end
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Economy Minister Zafer
Çağlayan, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, National Intelligence
Organization, or MİT, head Hakan Fidan and Deputy Chief of the
General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar accompanied Erdoğan in the visit to
Messages On Syria
While Turkey has repeatedly voiced its support for Iran´s right to
establish a peaceful nuclear program, it is at odds with Tehran over
Syria where the government crackdown continues against opposition
forces and anti-government demonstrators.
Turkey´s EU Minister Egemen Bağış has underlined the importance of
Erdoğan´s messages in Tehran over the ongoing violence in Syria.
"In order to halt bloodshed in Syria, the prime minister´s messages
to Tehran have a significant importance. We don´t want innocent
people to lose their lives either in Syria or in any other country,"
Erdoğan has urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down,
putting an end to more than a year of fighting between Assad´s forces
and opponents of his rule. Turkey has also allowed opposition groups
to meet regularly in İstanbul.
In contrast, Shiite Muslim Iran has steadfastly continued to support
what is its closest Arab ally whose leader is from the minority
Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY