Turkey’s Syria and Iran policy

Turkey’s Syria and Iran policy

The Annan deadline for Syria ends at 6 o’clock this morning, April 12.

Yesterday afternoon the Syrian government had announced that they would stop operations by that time. That was after the leak of Kofi Annan’s letter to the United Nations in which he reportedly said that neither the Syrian army nor the opposition had kept their promises to stop fighting, and after Annan’s visit to Tehran to seek Iranian support to convince Bashar al-Assad to stop operations. Right after Damascus’s announcement, reports began to flow that tanks were entering partially destroyed Syrian cities, indicating that al-Assad intended to make use of every available minute to crush the opposing forces, if he stops at all.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on his way back from China, urged the UN to take immediate steps to stop al-Assad from killing his own people, referencing the fifth article of NATO’s charter, which basically says “All for one.” Specifically he was referring “violations” of the Turkish border by Syrian forces.

But before the U.N. there is the G-8 meeting in Washington, which started later yesterday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had already said in a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Moscow on April 10th that the issue would be discussed there. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday before the talks began that the U.S. would try to convince Russia to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council, so that there would be no Russian veto. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu returned early from China to work on the issue, and reportedly planned to have a video conference on the Syrian situation with his G-8 colleagues last night.

At the G-8 it was not only about Syria, it was about Iran and North Korea as well. Those three countries were denounced as an “axis of evil” by former U.S. President George W. Bush some ten years ago, and now under President Barack Obama they have collectively become an issue for the G-8.

Of those three countries on the G-8 agenda, two, Syria and Iran, are Turkey’s neighbors. And in addition to its peaceful neighborhood, Turkey is no stranger to Korean issues, despite the distance. Erdoğan was in South Korea ten days ago to strengthen ties there, and Turkey sent soldiers to fight in the Korean War back in 1950.

Perhaps Turkey’s stances on Syria and Iran may seem to be on a knife’s edge to some observers: sometimes overcautious, sometimes aggressive, taking too many risks. But Turkey is not a country thousands of kilometers away from the region; this is Turkey’s region as well, and it is natural to want to hear Turkey’s views on those two issues before going any further.

What is happening in the region, especially in Syria, is not normal at all, and if the U.N. has nothing to say about the regime’s atrocities -- as Annan said -- against its own people, the veto-empowered members of the Security Council should begin to question the very existence of the U.N.

Middle East,