Ankara sharpens warnings to Syria

Ankara sharpens warnings to Syria

Ankara sharpens warnings to Syria

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claims yesterday that Turkey’s sanctions would not affect the Syrian people negatively.AP photo

Turkey warned yesterday it might cut electricity sales to Syria as top leaders escalated criticism of Damascus after attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions, calling for the punishment of the perpetrators in addition to a formal apology.

“We cannot act as if nothing is happening in Syria while things are approaching the level of crimes against humanity. We are currently giving them electricity, but we may be forced to review everything if the current trend continues,” Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said.

The Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) has already suspended joint work with its Syrian counterpart at six wells in Syria as part of a bilateral oil exploration project, he said.

However, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey’s sanctions would not affect the Syrian people negatively, speaking yesterday from Rabat where he was attending a foreign ministers meeting of Turkey-Arab Cooperation Forum.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will make the final decision on whether the sale of electricity should continue, Yıldız said, stressing that cutting the flow of water to Syria was out of the question.

In a harshly worded address to one-time friend Bashar al-Assad, Erdoğan said the Syrian president had lost all his credibility and should be careful “to avoid stepping onto the road of no return.”

Speaking at the parliamentary group meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdoğan condemned attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions over the weekend, which saw a pro-regime mob attempt to pull down the national flag from Turkey’s honorary consulate in Latakia.

“Beyond an apology, we expect the Syrian administration to find those who are responsible. And you, Bashar, as someone who already has thousands of political prisoners in jail, you must find and punish those who attacked the Turkish flag,” he said.

“Attempts on the Turkish flag have never been left unanswered,” he warned, adding that any covert intention to send messages to Turkey through such orchestrated moves was “pathetic.”

President Abdullah Gül voiced disappointment that Damascus failed to choose the path of reform despite the fact that “Turkey’s biggest foreign policy investment in recent years was made to Syria” in the hope of encouraging democratic change.

“Unfortunately, Syria is today at a dead end,” Gül said at a joint press conference with visiting Hungarian counterpart Pal Schmitt.

“We have strongly condemned the attacks. Undoubtedly, our reaction will be different if they fail to take the necessary measures and the attacks are repeated,” he said.

In further messages to Assad, Erdoğan said the Syrian president risked going down in history in the fold of “leaders who feed on blood” and made a veiled reference to the death of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

“No administration that has lost international legitimacy and popular support should expect longevity. Bashar al-Assad must see the tragic end of those who until recently waged war on their own people,” he said.

Erdoğan said Turkey remained a friend to the Syrian people and piled criticism on the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which has denounced the government’s policy against Damascus as meddling in its domestic affairs.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also voiced misgivings yesterday that Ankara’s close ties with the Syrian opposition amounted to interference in Syria’s domestic affairs.

“Naturally, Syria would not stand by in the face of the AKP shows of enmity and is releasing its hatred and anger. We are concerned that Turkey’s meddling in its neighbors’ domestic affairs could have bitter consequences,” MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said, claiming the AKP was acting under U.S. guidance.