Turkey wants US to ready Syria ‘Plan B’

Turkey wants US to ready Syria ‘Plan B’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey wants US to ready Syria ‘Plan B’

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R) is set to meet with his US counterpart John Kerry in Paris upon his invitation. Hürriyet Daily News photo by Selahattin Sönmez'

Unable to conceal its skepticism about a Washington-Moscow deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, Ankara is set to ask Washington to prepare a “Plan B” for Syria on concerns that Damascus will abuse the process and continue its alleged attacks on its citizens.

“This process will give more time for [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad [to stay] in power. The deal should have been more open and straight in outlining the possible sanctions to be imposed on Damascus in the event of the regime’s incompliance with the deal,” a Turkish diplomatic source said over the weekend. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will outline the Turkish government’s position and its concerns with regard to developments in Syria at a meeting in Paris with the participation of foreign ministers from the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia. Davutoğlu was invited to the meeting by John Kerry, with whom he exchanged two phone conversations on Sept. 14 and early yesterday. 

Having already described the efforts as “cosmetic,” Davutoğlu bluntly expressed Turkey’s concerns over the deal’s effects on the ongoing civil war in Syria and repeated that the international community should be made well-aware of the potential massacres that could be committed by the Syrian government. Initially slated to be a meeting between the U.S., French and British foreign ministers, the scope of the Paris meetings was expanded in the wake of the Davutoğu-Kerry conversation. 

“This deal should not delay the need for an immediate resolution of the ongoing human tragedy in Syria. Al-Assad should not be allowed to continue his massacres. We are concerned that the regime will abuse this deal for the continuation of the human tragedy in Syria,” Davutoğlu reportedly told Kerry over the phone. 

Kerry looks to soothe allies

The Paris meeting will give Kerry a chance to inform and allay the concerns of his allies on the Syrian deal, which is aimed at eliminating the country’s roughly 1,000 tons of chemical weapons stockpiles by the first half of 2014 as part of a breakthrough to avert a potential U.S. military operation against Syria in the aftermath of the government’s alleged use of the weapons on Aug. 21 in a strike that killed upward of 1,400 civilians. Kerry was in Israel on Sunday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to inform him about the Sept. 14 deal. 

Turkey, along with France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, favor a large-scale punitive military operation into Syria with the purpose of effectively toppling the al-Assad government after nearly 2.5 years of civil war that has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Syrians. The meeting in Paris will allow the U.S. and its allies to evaluate their next steps in Syria. Davutoğlu is expected to hold bilateral talks with his counterparts in Paris on the sidelines of Kerry’s initiative. 

In Turkey, Davutoğlu held phone talks with his Qatari and Saudi Arabian counterparts late Sept. 14 before his participation at the Paris meeting was confirmed by the Foreign Ministry.
‘Chemical weapons part of larger crisis’

According to Turkish diplomatic sources, one of the most important messages to be given by Davutoğlu is that the use of the chemical weapons by the government is just one aspect of the ongoing Syrian crisis and that “international concentration on the need for political transition in Syria should not be lost.” 

In his initial statement on Sept. 14, Davutoğlu described the deal as an opportunity for al-Assad to buy time, although he also welcomed the Geneva deal on the grounds that ridding the region and the world of chemical weapons was in accord with Turkey’s position. 

In Paris, the Turkish minister is expected to tell Kerry that al-Assad should not be permitted to abuse the process, arguing that Ankara, Washington and Moscow should accordingly prepare contingency plans with a view to Damascus’ potential incompliance with the terms of the deal.

Although the deal refers to the U.N. Charter’s Article 7, which outlines the measures to be imposed against Syria in the event of non-compliance, Ankara is of the opinion that a more concrete set of sanctions should be announced today. 

One other issue Davutoğlu is likely to bring to the table today is the disappointment of Syrian opposition groups who have been fighting against the government since 2011. The Turkish minister will likely ask his counterparts to reinforce the opposition groups both politically and militarily so that they do not lose their positions in the field.

In the meantime, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu held a urgent meeting with top opposition figures late yesterday. Ahmad al-Jarba, head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Ahmad Saleh Touma, head of the interim Syrian government and Salim Idriss, head of the supreme military council were scheduled to meet with Davutoğlu in Ankara.