Turkey eyes official apology from Syria

Turkey eyes official apology from Syria

Turkey eyes official apology from Syria

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R) greeting members of Syrian National Council as they met on Nov 13. AA photo

Turkey has called on Syria to deliver a formal apology over attacks on its diplomatic missions in the country on the weekend, stressing that it will maintain “the most resolute attitude” toward Damascus.

“Turkey is expecting a formal apology through diplomatic channels,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said yesterday after a Cabinet meeting, playing down an apology that Syrian’s foreign minister offered a press conference earlier in the day.

Arınç condemned the ongoing crackdown on anti-regime protestors in Syria as “state terror” which “the whole world is following with feelings of hatred.”

The statement made Syria the third country after Israel and Armenia that Turkey is expecting an apology from over tensions in bilateral ties.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Ankara would adopt “the most resolute attitude” against Damascus and would continue to “stand by the just demands of the Syrian people.”

He also played down the apology that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem offered to Turkey as well as to France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, whose embassies were also attacked, during a press conference in Damascus. “I’m aware of the statement made through the media. I’ll make a detailed comment later,” he told reporters.

Speaking during a debate on his ministry’s 2012 budget at Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission, Davutoğlu warned that “those in the Middle East who are not at peace with their people and cannot satisfy them will go.”

He lent support to the Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria and said he would discuss the issue with Arab counterparts when they meet in Morocco’s capital Rabat on Wednesday for the Turkey-Arab Forum.

Turkey is not planning any immediate unilateral sanctions against Syria in the absence of a U.N. Security Council resolution, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that the Arab League’s decision could pave the way for a fresh initiative to sanction Syria at the Security Council.

Ankara has decided to keep Ambassador Ömer Önhon and Turkish consuls in Syria “until the last moment” even though the families of diplomats and non-essential personnel were evacuated, the sources said.

At the meeting in Rabat, Davutoğlu and his Arab counterparts are expected to discuss how civilians could be protected against the bloody crackdown of Syrian forces, Erşad Hürmüzlü, a foreign policy advisor to President Abdullah Gül, told private channel NTV yesterday.

Asked whether Turkey might consider setting up a “buffer zone” on the Syrian border, Hürmüzlü said: “The protection of civilians is certainly very important. But what matters is an international resolution on the issue. It seems out of the question for us to do that on our own.”

Following the embassy attacks, Davutoğlu met late on Nov. 13 with opposition leaders from Syria’s National Council, who reiterated a request to open an office in Turkey. The issue remains on the agenda, but it is not yet clear when and where such an office could be opened, sources said.

Thousands of protesters carrying knives and batons attacked Turkey’s diplomatic missions on Nov. 13, furious over Ankara’s support for the Arab League decision to suspend Syria. Diplomatic sources highlighted the fact that the protestors did not target other embassies in the vicinity, implying that the attack was orchestrated with the apparent involvement of the regime.

Ankara expressed outrage after the attacks and summoned the top Syrian diplomat in Ankara to deliver a note of protest.

Replying to criticism over the sharp shift in Ankara’s policy toward Syria, Davutoğlu said they had tried to use the once-flourishing ties as a leverage to cajole President Bashar al-Assad into reform as early as 2005. “Whatever happens, the Turkish and Syrian people will be close friends,” he said.