US and Turkey discuss Iraq, Syria over the weekend
In addition to their weekend discussions on Iraq and Syria, US Secretary of State Kerry and FM Davutoğlu (R) also discussed the issue in Cyprus. DHA photoThe fragile situations in Iraq and Syria were discussed on March 30 during a telephone call between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Ahmet Davutoğlu, the foreign minister of Turkey, which shares a border with two critical Middle East countries, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
On Syria, the discussion centered on the measures to be taken regarding a warning by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon regarding the Syrian government’s use of Scud missiles against rebel forces in populated areas and the possible use of chemical weapons in President Bashar al-Assad’s arsenal. On March 20, both Syrian government forces and rebel forces accused each other of using chemical weapons in the Han Ansal region, some 30 kilometers from the Turkish border.
In addition to the Turkish military’s conventional measures along the 910-kilometer-long Syrian border, three NATO-owned Patriot anti-missile batteries operated by American, German and Dutch soldiers were deployed to Turkey earlier this year to endorse the solidarity of the alliance. In answer to HDN questions, sources said there was no mention during the conversation of assigning a dual role to the batteries to create a safe haven for the rebels.
Kerry had voiced his reaction to the weapons support the Syrian government gets from Iran and elsewhere via Iraq, during his visit to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad on March 24. Al-Maliki, himself a Shiite, the official religion of Iran, does not hide his support for al-Assad and was quoted as saying in return that he did not have the sufficient means to control the planes and trucks carrying cargo to Syria through Iraq.
But al-Maliki, who ironically has political support from both the U.S. and Iran, has serious problems with his country’s own Sunni population. His decision to delay local elections in the Sunni-populated provinces of Anbar and Ninevah amid opposition criticism as to its “unconstitutionality” was another issue raised by Kerry during his Baghdad visit. That issue was discussed between Kerry and Davutoğlu, who expressed Turkey’s concern regarding the future of Iraq.
There is a discrepancy between Turkey and the U.S. over the licensing of energy sources in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) by the Turkish border; Turkey has pointed to American companies like Chevron and Exxon as examples for Turkish companies to follow, even as Washington says improving Turkish-Kurdish relations further weaken al-Maliki’s position.
The whole Syria-Iraq-Iran balance might change as Turkey’s relations get back on track with Israel following the latter’s U.S.-mediated, March 22 apology to Turkey over the nine Turks killed by Israeli commandoes in 2010. That might get Russia involved in the area again, as well as lead to lucrative energy projects between Turkey and Israel, thereby perhaps affecting the Cyprus issue as well, given the new energy sources discovered around the divided island and given the economic crisis there.
Davutoğlu also asked Kerry whether he had received his letter dated March 26 proposing a “new state of affairs” regarding Cyprus, with the involvement of Turkey, Greece and both communities on the strategically important eastern Mediterranean island. Kerry said he received the letter and would follow up on it, sources told HDN.