All eyes on Russia FM as Syria heat growing

All eyes on Russia FM as Syria heat growing

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
All eyes on Russia FM as Syria heat growing

Syrian protestors living in Turkey hold posters depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of Syrian consulate in Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Washington’s idea of establishing the Friends of Democratic Syria group following the failure of the adoption of a resolution against Syria at the U.N. Security Council has received Turkey’s support but on the condition the Arab League participates, diplomats said. 

“Before taking such a step, we will wait for the results of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Damascus. We are still hopeful that Russia will change its position and remove its veto after talks in Syria,” diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News on Feb. 5. 

Russian news agency ITAR-TASS said that alongside the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Agency (SVR) Mikhail Fradkov, Lavrov is expected to deliver a message from President Dmitry Medvedev to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today. But Lavrov would not divulge the purpose of the mission.

“When you go on a mission on the order of the head of state then the purpose of the mission is usually only revealed to the person it is addressed to,” he said.

Lavrov said yesterday some external actors wanted to change the regime in Syria. Russia had encouraged Damascus to speed up reforms a few times and continued to do so, Lavrov told a joint press conference with his Bahraini counterpart in Moscow. Lavrov argued Syrian opposition had been recommended that it should not reach any compromise with the Syrian regime and groups armed with that aim only raised the number of victims.

The idea of establishing the Friends of Democratic Syria group or the Syria Contact Group has been floating around the international platform for some time but gained more priority after Russia and China vetoed a very watered down draft law against Syria. 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We will work with the Friends of a Democratic Syria around the world to support the opposition’s peaceful political plans for change” in Munich. A similar group was also established for Libya, but the international community took action.

Convincing Russia

For Turkey, there is still room to convince Russians to join the international community’s efforts. In this sense, Lavrov’s visit to Damascus stands as an important opportunity for Moscow to realize the al-Assad regime had already lost its legitimacy. Turkey will also weigh in the results of the Arab League’s upcoming evaluation meeting on Syria on Feb. 11. 

Diplomatic sources said the issue would be deeply discussed during Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s four-day trip to Washington beginning Feb. 8. 

A similar proposal for the formation of such a group to Turkey came from Italy on Feb. 5. Italy’s Special Envoy for the Middle East Maurizio Massari, who met with senior Turkish diplomats, took the pulse of Ankara as to whether it would take part in a Friends of Democratic Syria group alongside some prominent European countries and the U.S. 

“Italy and Turkey can work together to convince Russians, given the fact that both countries have good ties with Moscow. Close cooperation between important players should surely be established and structured,” Massari told the Daily News on Feb. 5. 

Though Turkey does not rule participating in such a group, it would surely impose some conditions on the terms of its mission, including its relations with the Syrian National Council and Free Syrian Army. 

Erdoğan curses Assad

The mass killings of Syrian dissidents at the hands of Syrian security forces continued to cause anger among top Turkish politicians. 

“I once again strongly condemn and curse nefarious, bloody attacks against a brother nation in neighboring Syria,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday. 

President Abdullah Gül criticized Russia and China for vetoing the draft law at the U.N. Security Council.

“Everyone should recall the Cold War era has ended,” Gül said, adding the contemporary world would never accept the killings of people just because of their demands for more human rights. “We are heading toward a very bad scenario in Syria. This worries us a lot. Syria is on a road of no return,” he added.

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