Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s statement “No regime can survive by killing or jailing. No one can build a future over the blood of the oppressed.” (Ottawa Citizen, November 16, 2011), Mr. Erdogan is right. Turkey cannot build a future over the blood of massacred Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Kurds. Unlike Germany (responsible for the Holocaust), Turkey remains unrepentant and continues to deny its genocidal policies against its minorities. So far Ankara has spent an astonishing $1 billion in its genocide denying campaign.
It’s obvious Turkey’s bullying of the Syrian government goes beyond Ankara’s concern for the welfare of Syrians. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Davutoglu isn’t shy in expressing Turkey’s ambitions to revive the Ottoman Empire. About two million Kurds live in northern Syria. On the pretense of saving Syrians, Turkey wants to invade northern Syria and create a buffer zone to “contain” the Kurdish population and thus freeze their aspirations to establish a Kurdish homeland with their brothers in northern Iraq. Turkey is about repeat in Syria what it did in northern Cyprus in the ’70s.
Syria’s oil fields, in the northeastern part of the country, are another reason Turkey wants to create a buffer zone there. From northeastern Syria it’s a hop and skips to Iraq’s oil fields. Voila! An instant Turkish Empire rich with other people’s oil. These potential developments make one wonder about Turkey’s role in destabilizing Syria.
Turkey to Assad: Your regime is on a knife-edge
Turkey was on the brink of open confrontation over its border with Syria on Tuesday, announcing its first economic sanctions against Damascus and saying President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was “on a knife-edge.”
The Turkish government, which has turned from an Assad ally into his fiercest critic in a few short months, said it was suspending joint oil exploration and considering stopping electricity supplies to its neighbor.
For the first time, a senior official openly discussed the possibility of imposing a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border to provide sanctuary for refugees. That would imply direct military action.
The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, will join counterparts from the Arab League at a summit in Morocco today to discuss further measures after a day of frantic lobbying by the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), eager to capitalize on Assad’s isolation.
Turkey wants “sanctions with an impact that spares harm to the Syrian people,” Davutoglu said after arriving in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said: “Our wish is that the Assad regime, which is now on a knife-edge, does not enter this road of no return, which leads to the edge of the abyss. No regime can survive by killing or jailing. No one can build a future over the blood of the oppressed.”
The United States said that it hoped the Arab League would use its meeting to send a forceful message to Assad to halt violence against his people.
The Syrian Observatory human rights group called for both a buffer zone and a Libyan-style no-fly zone. It urged the international community “to take its moral and legal responsibilities defined by international law,” and demanded “urgent effective action to help the Syrians to get their freedom.”
Neither Turkey nor the Arab League look likely to go that far immediately, despite Saturday’s decision to suspend Syria’s League membership. But Turkish leaders threatened direct action if there were any repeat of the attacks on its consulates in Syria at the weekend. A foreign policy adviser to the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, seemed to confirm that a buffer zone might only now need approval from other neighbors, which looks more likely following the Arab League vote.
“The protection of civilians is certainly very important,” Ersad Hurmuzlu told a television station. “But what matters is an international resolution on the issue. It seems out of the question for us to do that on our own.”
The situation in Syria has worsened since the Arab League suspension. Monday saw what may have been the first major battle between troops and opposition activists and army defectors, in the province of Daraa, where the uprising began in March.
Activists said the defectors had staged an ambush in which they killed 34 troops and lost 12 men. They said another 24 people had died in clashes across the south of the country.
Despite this, there seems little immediate prospect of action at the United Nations. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, rebuffed an SNC delegation which had asked him to lift his opposition to further sanctions and called instead for the council to sit down with Assad.
The SNC is putting its hopes in the Arab League meeting, which is supposed to discuss the political and economic sanctions specified in Saturday’s vote. “We expect an even tougher position,” Ausama Monajed, a member, said. He said the council supported a buffer zone but acknowledged that it would be complex and dangerous to establish.
The measures announced by Turkey may be more symbolic than effective in the short term. Syria produces more electricity than it needs and shares it through a grid system with neighbours.
Syria, in an apparent last-minute show of goodwill, released 1,180 prisoners who were arrested during the anti-regime protests, in line with one of the points of the Arab League plan.
“1,180 prisoners who had been involved in the incidents in Syria and who did not have blood on their hands were released today,” Syrian state television reported.
Top dissident, Kamal Labwani, who was jailed for 12 years in May 2007, was also reportedly freed.
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