Turkey keeps envoy in Syria, removes families
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Syrians raise the national flag on the roof of the Qatar Embassy in Damascus on Nov 12, hours after a statement, read by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani said the Arab League had decided ‘to suspend Syrian delegations’ activities in Arab League meetings’ and to implement sanctions against Damascus. AFP photo
With growing security concerns, Turkey evacuated 68 people, the families of its diplomatic staff in Syria, but vowed to keep Ambassador Ömer Önhon and other diplomats in the country for the time being. Turkey used the same method in the heady days of the Libyan crisis, gradually completing the evacuation of Turkish citizens from the turmoil-hit country. It also issued a travel warning for Turkish citizens who wished to visit Syria, particularly to Homa, Idlip and Aleppo.
“Turkey will continue to closely follow all these issues in the days ahead and will take every precaution deemed to be necessary in line with the developments,” the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement yesterday. It also said Turkey reserved the right to appeal to international courts over the damages given to its diplomatic missions.
As the news spread that the Arab League had taken action against Syria for failing to stop its brutal crackdown on dissidents, nearly 2,000 protesters attacked the Turkish Embassy in Damascus on Nov. 12. The Turkish Consulate in Aleppo and honorary consulate in Latakia were also the target of angry pro-Assad protesters. Attackers threw stones and bottles before security forces intervened to break up the protest against the embassy, which did not suffer serious harm. Protesters also burned a Turkish flag and one protester was prevented from lowering the Turkish flag.
Though a number diplomatic missions of Western and Arab League countries were also attacked by protestors, the strongest one was against the Turkish representation, something that the Foreign Ministry found “very meaningful.” Recalling that protection of foreign diplomatic missions was the responsibility and a matter of honor of the host countries according to the Vienna Convention, Turkey demanded immediate action from Syrian authorities to identify the perpetrators of the attack.
“In order to prevent a reoccurrence of such attacks, we expect the Syrian administration to give us assurances that it will immediately take every necessary precaution and increase the level of security provided for our diplomatic missions,” it said.
Turkey backs Arab League decisions
In the meantime, Turkey said it fully backed the Arab League’s decision and will continue to work with the organization for future steps against Syria. “The Syrian administration should get this message. The legitimacy of an administration that uses violence against its own people and which has difficulties with its own people will become subject to discussion on every platform,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Nov. 12.
Davutoğlu said he would hold more talks with the general-secretary of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, in Marocco this week where they will meet on the sidelines of the Turkey-Arab Forum. In the meantime, Davutoğlu met with the Syrian National Council (SNC) late Sunday.
“It’s very important that the cooperation between Turkey and the Arab League continues,” he said, adding that more economic and political measures will be discussed by the Arab League in the coming weeks.