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MURAT YETKİN

murat.yetkin@hurriyet.com.tr

MURAT YETKİN > Syrian situation gets serious

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It appears that Mounzer Mounzer, the Syrian charge d’affaires, received two warnings from the Turkish Foreign Ministry yesterday; one on one, as he was summoned to the ministry.

“The message was stronger than a protest,” one Turkish diplomat explained on the phone. “It was a warning telling them to watch their steps, because what they have been doing will have consequences.”

The word “consequences” could be stretched up to military action in diplomacy, but as of yesterday the Turkish Armed Forces have not been put on alert yet. Despite holding one of the most active positions regarding the violence used by the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria against its own people, Ankara doesn’t want to get involved in a unilateral military action against its southern neighbor; not without a United Nations initiative.

The warnings yesterday were about the clashes starting to affect the Turkish border and Syrian refugee camps on the Turkish side of the border. Their total inhabitants number around 25,000 and the figure is on the rise. They got worse right before Mounzer was summoned to the Turkish ministry, when 4 people on the Turkish side were wounded by bullets.

There were reports saying that fire had been opened by Syrian security forces targeting a refugee camp near the Turkish city of Kilis. But the governor of Kilis says the wounds were from ricocheting bullets, without specifying the source. Two possibilities; either there was fire from both sides, of which there is no account, or government doesn’t want to be in a position to reply. Two Syrians on the other side were already killed by Syrian security yesterday; the Turkish government announced that if there is another opening of fire by the border, Turkey is going to take "necessary measures."

The second explanation is more plausible since there is a deadline expiring today, April the 10th. The deadline was imposed by the former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who acts as the broker on behalf of the international community on this case and whose plan had been supposedly accepted by al-Assad. Annan is expected to visit the refugee camps along the Turkish border today, and for Ankara that Annan Plan could be declared dead at the end of this visit.

There is a possibility that two influential U.S. senators, John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, who met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül yesterday in Istanbul, might go and observe the situation on the Turkish-Syrian border themselves and perhaps hear the sound of clashes themselves.

Perhaps that is why Naci Koru, deputy Turkish foreign minister says that a new page is about to be opened.
Actually that depends mainly on Russia, which vetoes any kind of action regarding Syria; well, China as well, but they follow in the footsteps of Russia on the Syrian situation. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was in Russia to ask for more support from his counterpart Sergey Lavrov, but it is not clear whether Russia will let the crisis be discussed and voted on in the U.N. Security Council.

Ankara might reposition itself as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan returns from his crucial visit to China tomorrow.

April/10/2012

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