Paris invites Ankara to EU meet on Syria

Paris invites Ankara to EU meet on Syria

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Paris invites Ankara to EU meet on Syria

Tens of thousands of Syrians stage a pro-regime rally in central Damascus in a show of support to their embattled President Bashar al-Assad. AFP photo

An EU decision on whether to invite Turkey to a key meeting on Syria will be critical in determining whether the bloc will become a “global power” or remain “political dwarf,” according to Turkish Foreign Ministry officials.

France announced yesterday that it had suggested that non-EU member Turkey be invited to a foreign ministers’ meeting on the ongoing unrest in Syria because of Ankara’s key role in the Arab republic’s crisis.

“We are aware of the French initiative but we have not yet received an official invitation. We have made it clear that we would join the meeting if the EU extends an official invitation,” a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday afternoon.

Paris’ invitation to Ankara is significant as France, along with EU heavyweight Germany, has long expressed skepticism at Turkey’s bid to join the 27-member union.

There was no information on why the official invitation had not yet been extended to Turkey although some said it might have been prevented by the Greek Cypriot government. “There could be some resistance within the EU,” said the official without further elaborating on the issue. “This will show whether the European Union is ready to become a global power or not.”

Greek Cyprus often vetoes Turkish participation in the EU’s foreign political meetings despite other member countries’ willingness to bring Turkey to the table, especially at meetings on foreign policy issues.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will depart for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, later today and will hold talks there tomorrow. In the event of an official invitation from the EU, however, Davutoğlu will head to Brussels from Jeddah to join the meeting, the official said.

During the EU meeting, ministers will listen to Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi’s presentations on Syria. Turkey’s participation in the meeting will be an important one in terms of creating more coordination between the 22 member-Arab League, the EU and regional power Turkey, the Turkish official added.

“We have proposed that Turkey be invited to the foreign ministers’ council to discuss the situation in Syria,” French spokesman Bernard Valero said yesterday.

The French proposal is a product of growing cooperation between Ankara and Paris over the Arab Spring in recent months – especially after the unrest spread to Syria, in which both countries have special relations and interests. The idea of Turkish participation in the EU’s meeting was born during French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe’s visit to Ankara, the official said.

The EU foreign ministers will discuss imposing more sanctions against Syria and revise ways to create a broader international consensus on the Syrian case.

Turkish measures await PM’s approval

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources said Turkey’s own measures against Syria were drafted late on Nov. 27 at a meeting and would be implemented following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s approval. The measures described as “smart sanctions” aim solely to hurt the Syrian administration without affecting people’s daily lives, according to officials.

Departing from the sanctions imposed by the Arab League, Turkey is not planning to suspend commercial flights to and from Syria and cut off the sale of electricity to its southern neighbor.