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Erdoğan-Assad and Angelina Jolie

HDN | 6/14/2011 12:00:00 AM | MURAT YETKİN - murat.yetkin@hurriyet.com.tr

Right after a clear election victory, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan started to catch up with the regional crisis from Syria, as the pressure mounts up at the border between the two countries.

Right after a clear election victory, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan started to catch up with the regional crisis from Syria, as the pressure mounts up at the border between the two countries.

Yesterday, before entering the last meeting of the expired Cabinet, he phoned up the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to say there was still room for him to maneuver for reforms. There is no indication yet that Assad will take Erdoğan’s advice, but Ankara seems to continue to push its southern neighbor until the last minute.

That is mainly because Ankara doesn’t want a foreign military intervention by its borders like the one in Libya.

On the other hand, thousands of Syrians escaping from the operations of the Syrian armed forces have been piling up at the border with more horror stories about the atrocities of the Baath regime.

Enter Angelina Jolie at this Syrian stage. Yesterday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry sources confirmed to the Hürriyet Daily News that the movie star had applied to Turkish authorities for permission to visit the refugee camps by the border. Jolie is known for her humanitarian activities within the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, or UNHCR, in order to draw attention to the problems of those who suffer.

If she comes, we can be sure that the world public attention might triple thanks to the presence of Jolie at the Turkish-Syrian border.

Ankara, on the other hand, is making its final preparations for a contingency plan if Assad fails to act wisely and take the necessary steps to save his country from getting into a civil war between religious and ethnic groupings.

The Turkish government evaluates the situation in two dimensions: Strategic and legal.

The strategic, political dimension says that the stability of Syria is vital for the fragile stability of the Middle East. But that doesn’t mean that the current regime will be supported at any cost, because the Baath rule cannot produce stability anymore, as it insists on the current policies.

The legal, humanitarian dimension envisages that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, no regime can do whatever it wants to its own citizens by hiding behind the political shield of the non-interference principle. The non-interference principle doesn’t give individual states the authority to act violently against their own people in the name of political stability any more.

The death toll in Syria since the winds of the Arab Spring started to blow in the country has exceeded 1,300 and the patience of the world public and the neighboring countries, including Turkey, is running thin.

One ranking Turkish source told me yesterday that the Syrian regime cannot survive for too long unless it changes its attitude sooner than later. That means, Erdoğan’s patience regarding his once-close friend Assad is forced to its limits and Assad may not be able to find anyone to support him, other than perhaps Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

One has to look for the next step of Turkey especially after today’s Syria assessment meeting in Ankara.

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