FM nixes French plan on Syria election show

FM nixes French plan on Syria election show

FM nixes French plan on Syria election show

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. AA photo

Turkish-French ties experienced a new round of friction April 19 after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu refused to participate in a press conference with the foreign ministers of the Friends of the Syrian People group on the grounds that the event was a “pre-election show.”

“I did not want to be a part of this show at a moment when people [in Syria] are suffering,” Davutoğlu told his colleagues during the Paris meeting of 14 core members of the group April 19, the Daily News has learned. According to Turkish officials, French President Nicholas Sarkozy wanted to use this meeting on Syria as an opportunity to show Paris’ influence under his rule on world politics by flaunting this before his rival, Socialist leader François Hollande. “They rushed to hold this meeting, and they were very disorganized,” an official said.

The Friends of the Syrian People has held two summits, in Tunis and in Istanbul, and the press statements after each have been conducted by only the foreign ministers of the host country. Davutoğlu asked both the Qatari and Saudi foreign ministers to remind French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, who was chairing the meeting, about earlier implementations, but this message was ignored.

Apart from concerns that Paris would use the conference for domestic political purposes, there are two other reasons behind Davutoğlu’s subtle message to France. The first one is not to give the impression that the 14 countries represented in Paris are following a different track from the rest of the 83-member Syria group or discriminating against others. Some foreign ministers from NATO countries have already questioned why they were not invited to the Paris meeting in their personal talks with Davutoğlu.

“Thus, turning this meeting into a big show would annoy others,” Davutoğlu said. Another reason is the fact that Turkey has not forgotten the current French government’s efforts to pass a law criminalizing the denial of the incidents of 1915 as genocide. “This was the first time I have visited France since that incident. I, as a civilized person, used my right not to participate in the press conference. But I later joined the group at the dinner,” Davutoğlu said. The minister advised Juppé not to take his move personally.

Annan plan a beginning

During the meeting, the ministers of 14 countries made an overall assessment of where they stand on Syria, especially since the beginning of a cease-fire and the U.N. Security Council’s resolution allowing U.N. observers to monitor the implementation of the Annan plan. “Following the developments is very important. The Syrian administration would think that it had gained control in leading the situation if it feels a decline in the world’s attention,” Davutoğlu said. In his briefing to both the NATO ministers and Friends of the Syrian People, Davutoğlu repeated his interpretation that the Annan plan was not an end but a beginning to changing the course of events in Syria. “What will be the end in Syria? The end will come when the Syrian people’s will for the future of the country prevails. ... And the Annan plan should work to create this ground.”

300 observers needed

In order for the cease-fire to be sustainable, Davutoğlu said, an effective monitoring structure with a sufficient number of observers is needed. “They [the U.N. officials] first talked about deploying 30 observers. I at once listed 30 residential areas in which security forces are still committing violence. ‘What about the rest of the country?’ I asked them. There should be at least 300 [observers] in order for the observation to be effective and inclusive.