Davutoğlu says Turkey cannot count on Arab support in Syria military intervention
Still image from Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's interview with Al-Jazeera, aired on Feb. 23, 2016.Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has suggested Turkey could not count on support from Arab countries in the event of a military intervention into Syria, during an interview with Qatar-based news broadcaster Al Jazeera.
“Who will guarantee us, if we militarily intervene, that Arab countries will be defending and supporting this?” Davutoğlu asked, in response to an apparent veiled criticism of Turkey and the global coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the form of question over who would stop Russia’s air bombardments in Syria.
The Turkish prime minister provided the example of Bashiqa, a camp in northern Iraq which recently became a source of tension between Ankara and Baghdad when the Iraqi government asked Turkey to withdraw some 150 troops it had deployed in the region late last year in order to train an Iraqi militia to fight ISIL.
“We sent military trainers and some troops to defend them in order to liberate Mosul. We sent them to Bashiqa and the Arab League has condemned Turkey,” Davutoğlu said, referring to an Arab League decision to condemn Turkey’s deployment of troops as an “assault” on Iraqi sovereignty on Dec. 24, 2015.
“Now, all those who are asking us questions, they have to look at themselves,” he added. “Which Arab country did more? And why, when Turkey went to Mosul, to liberate Mosul, to help Mosul, did the Arab League condemn Turkey and ask [Turkey] to withdraw?”
Turkey will not support ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Syria
Davutoğlu also responded to a question on Turkey closing its border to Syrian refugees, refuting the claim that the closure was a result of Turkey’s agreement with the European Union.
Arguing that Russian bombardments in Aleppo and Azaz amounted to “ethnic cleansing,” the prime minister said Turkey would not assist Russia’s alleged strategy of driving all anti-regime forces, especially Sunnis, out of Syria.
“We don’t want to hurt them [Syrian refugees]; we will keep them in Syrian territories and help them there, but if there is a danger [to their] lives, we will never close the border,” he said.
“We know very well the aim of this tactic is to create a refugee crisis in Turkey and in the EU,” Davutoğlu said, adding Europe and Turkey now shared a common position on the necessity to create a safe-zone for Syrian refugees to stay inside Syria.
Ceasefire in Syria a ‘litmus test’
When asked about the recent ceasefire announced by the United States and Russia, Davutoğlu suggested the success of the talks depended on the seriousness of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime and its allies. The prime minister warned that continued air bombardments against Aleppo or Azaz would work as a “litmus test” to determine whether the Syrian regime wanted the negotiations to succeed.
“Syria and its allies are responsible for not having a result in the last round of talks,” he said, adding the talks would fail if the al-Assad regime and its allies continued “talking on one side to gain time and attacking civilians and Syrian people on the other side.”