Turkey’s failed Syria push

Turkey’s failed Syria push

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s failed Syria push

The Syrian army announces a halt to operations against rebels. AA photo

Relations between Turkey and Syria deteriorated rapidly after the meeting in Damascus in August last year between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Aug. 10, 2011: After meeting al-Assad in Damascus, Davutoğlu was cautious and said the country was closely monitoring the situation in Syria but change may take time. Turkey also welcomed the pull-out of Syrian tanks from Hama, but remained skeptical and urged more steps “within 10 to 15 days” to ease the turmoil.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey’s Ambassador to Syria Ömer Önhon confirmed that tanks and security forces were leaving the revolt hub of Hama after the envoy visited the city.

“This is very, very important as it shows that our initiative has produced a positive result. We hope that things are fully completed within a period of 10 to 15 days and steps are taken regarding the reform process in Syria,” Erdoğan said. Tanks entered Hama on the same day.

Aug. 15: In one of Turkey’s strongest warnings yet to its southern neighbor, Davutoğlu urged Damascus to end the violence immediately, saying that if violence did not stop there would be nothing left to say about the steps to be taken.

Aug. 17: Ankara started toughening its rhetoric further. Comparing Syria with the situation in Libya, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke of his frustration with the Syrian regime: “I’ve sent my foreign minister, and have personally got in touch many times. In spite of all this, civilians are still being killed.”

Aug. 23 In Istanbul, the Syrian National Council (SNC) was established to “represent the concerns and demands of the Syrian people.” The group announced that they were against international intervention in Syria, a position that would eventually change months later.

Sept. 10: Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi met with Bashar al-Assad, urging him to stop violence and move forward with reforms. After the meeting, al-Arabi announced that “a deal has been agreed on for reforms.”

Sept. 20: On the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to increase pressure on the Syrian regime to end the violence against anti-government protesters.

Sept. 21: Erdoğan announced that Turkey had cut all relations and contact with Syria, and was considering imposing sanctions against Syria. “We never wanted things to arrive at this point, but unfortunately, the Syrian administration has forced us to take such a decision,” he said.

Sept. 23: After seizing a Syrian-flagged ship loaded with weapons, Turkey announced that it would be enforcing an arms embargo on Syria and would confiscate any weapon deliveries to Syria by ship.

Oct. 4: China and Russia vetoed sanctions against Syria at the U.N. Security Council. Hours later, Turkey threatened unilateral sanctions and announced war games along the border. Meanwhile, the death toll surpassed 3,000.

Nov. 12: The Turkish consul general to Aleppo was attacked. The Turkish and French consulates in Latakia were also attacked. The Arab League announced it would suspend Syria over the crackdown and promised new sanctions.

Nov. 21: A bus, carrying Turkish pilgrims, has come under attack in central Syrian city of Homs.
Dec. 7: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed he was not responsible for the military crackdown and said he did not feel guilty because his government was doing nothing wrong, in an interview with ABC news.

Dec. 19: Following the killing of over 100 army deserters, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu issued a statement in condemnation, as the death toll inched to 6,000.

Feb. 4, 2012: Government forces began an intense artillery bombardment of Homs. Turkey strongly condemned the attack. Russia and China announced their veto of the U.N. resolution on Syria at the Security Council.

Feb. 24: The first meeting of The Friends of Syria took place in Tunis, where 70 Western and Arab Nations gathered to discuss and act on the ongoing events in Syria. The meeting announced the recognition of the SNC as a “legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

March 3: President Gül said Syria could change with a “Yemeni Model,” which would grant protection to al-Assad if he resigned.

March 10: Al-Assad met U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who was trying to break the impasse.
March 16: Turkey requested that all its citizens living in Syria return home to Turkey. It also announced for the first time that was considering establishing a buffer zone on the northern border of Syria.

April 1: The Friends of Syria initiative again gathered in Istanbul. The number of refugees taking shelter in Turkey reached 23,835.

April 12: The Kofi Annan-sponsored ceasefire came into effect, but there were several reports of ceasefire violations by the Syrian army. Four days later, the U.N. deployed observers to monitor the cease-fire.

May 10: At least 55 people were killed and some 372 people injured by two powerful car bomb blasts in Damascus.

May 11: Turkish journalists Adem Özköse and Hamit Coşkun were released after being held for 70 days, upon the initiative of Turkey and with the mediation of Iran.

May 25: 110 people were killed, including 34 women and 49 children, in the Houla town of Homs. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon blamed the Syrian government for the “unacceptable levels of violence and abuses.”

June 6: 140 people were killed in the villages of Qubair, Hama province. Ban condemned the killings in Hama and Houla and said al-Assad had lost his legitimacy.

June 22: Following the downing of a jet by Syria, Prime Minister Erdoğan said the Turkish Armed Forces had changed the rules of engagement in the wake of the crisis: “After this attack, we have entered into a new stage. The rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed. Any risk posed by Syria on the Turkish border, any military element that could pose a threat, will be considered a threat and treated as a military target.”