Erdoğan ‘right to address use of conventional weapons’ in Syria: UK envoy

Erdoğan ‘right to address use of conventional weapons’ in Syria: UK envoy

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
Erdoğan ‘right to address use of conventional weapons’ in Syria: UK envoy

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is “absolutely right that the use of conventional weapons is no less important than the use of chemical weapons,” the British ambassador to Ankara has said, urging the international community to be more active in finding a lasting, peaceful solution to the Syrian civil war. 

“I have seen the president’s remarks and naturally, I think, from a humanitarian point of view, he is absolutely right. Of course, there is no difference if you have been killed with a conventional weapon or a chemical weapon. And as a human reaction to the horror of Syria, we must all feel the same that it is an appalling humanitarian tragedy,” the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Ankara Dominick Chilcott told a group of Ankara bureau chiefs on April 17.

“Of course, many of us are very active to try and find a lasting, peaceful solution to the civil war in Syria under the auspices of the U.N.-led [United Nations] Geneva process,” he said.

His remarks were regarding a question on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent warning that the international community had only been focusing on chemical attacks in Syria while turning a blind eye to the attacks carried out with conventional weapons.

However, Chilcott, whose government joined France and the United States in a strike against the Syrian regime’s chemical weapon facilities, underlined a major difference between the two types of weapons.

“As a matter of international law, chemical weapons are in a different category because they are actually illegal weapons and the international rules that outlaw chemical weapons have been one of the great achievements of international cooperation in the 20th century. We feel an obligation, along with many other members of the international community that we should uphold this achievement,” he said.

“But, we will of course continue to do everything we can both to support the political process that we hope will lead to a lasting solution and bring about the end of conflict and continue to provide humanitarian aid to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people as far as possible,” said the envoy.

Envoy welcomes Turkey’s support to operation 

Chilcott has drawn attention to the link between the incidences of the use of chemical weapons in the Douma province of Syria and in Salisbury near London against a former double agent, known as the Skripal case.

“They both involved, to a very different scale, the use of weapons that are illegal under international law. And the other connection they have is Russia,” he said.

The Turkish reaction toward these two issues had not been along the same lines and the Turkish government did not follow other Western countries in expelling Russian diplomats while endorsing the military strike against Damascus.

“You are quite right. The statements made about the military intervention in Syria have been very positive from the Turkish government and very much welcomed by us and I am sure by France and the United States as well. And we are very pleased to have this support from an important ally like Turkey and such a big regional player in this part of the world,” the ambassador said.

In the Skripal case, Turkey has been very helpful to the U.K. in NATO, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and in the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, the envoy recalled, adding that the Turkish government has supported strong statements by those organizations that in some cases, explicitly pointed a finger at Russia.

“So, we are in no doubt of the views of the Turkish government and the support that we have received from them in the Skripal case. And of course we understand that in a context, a couple of weeks before the summit with Mr. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin in Ankara and the Astana Process Summit, at a time when Turkey needs a working relationship with Russia for its energy needs and for Syria, that there are constraints on what Turkey might want to say in public. And we understand that,” said Chilcott.

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