Turkish PM Erdoğan to push for Syria at G-20 summit

Turkish PM Erdoğan to push for Syria at G-20 summit

Turkish PM Erdoğan to push for Syria at G-20 summit

Prime Minister Erdoğan said he found Putin’s words very interesting. AA photo

Stung by the world’s hesitance at rushing headlong into Syria, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will take the opportunity at a Russian G-20 meeting today and tomorrow to redouble his efforts at convincing the world to militarily respond to Damascus’ alleged use of chemical weapons.

Erdoğan is expected to hold short meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with other leaders of the G-20 countries, like France, Germany and others. The foreign ministers of G-20 countries are also expected to come together on the sidelines of the meeting to discuss developments in the course of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, which was called a red line by many Western countries.

“The G-20 summit will be a very, very important venue for us to discuss these issues [concerning Syria]. We will keep these issues on the agenda of either out bilateral or multilateral meetings,” Erdoğan told reporters before his departure to Russia yesterday.

Apart from Erdoğan, Obama and Putin, French President François Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also expected to be present at the summit in St. Petersburg.

Obama will only attend the opening ceremony of the G-20 summit, Erdoğan said, noting that his audience with the U.S. leader would necessarily be short. It will be a first in-person meeting between the two leaders since Erdoğan’s trip to Washington on May 16. The Obama-Erdoğan meeting comes on the heels of tensions between the two countries following the White House’s strong condemnation of Erdoğan’s accusation that Israel orchestrated the July 3 coup d’état in Egypt.

Turkey was disappointed by Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval before a strike against Syria, but Erdoğan tried to remain tight-lipped on the move, repeating that Turkey was ready to take part in any kind of “coalition of the willing.”

“Mr. Obama’s decision to bring the issue to the Congress can be regarded as an internal political decision. It’s perhaps because of his self-confidence,” he said.

Scope and objectives differ

One important point Erdoğan is expected to tell Obama is that the proposed scope and objectives of a potential U.S. operation should aim to weaken the Syrian government and thus force it to sue for a political solution.

The prime minister has already said punishing only the use of chemical weapons would not change the course of developments in Syria. Erdoğan recalled NATO’s 78-day-long operation in Kosovo in 1999 and advised his counterparts to think over such a broad intervention.

PM welcomes Putin’s statement

Erdoğan reiterated that there was no doubt that government forces used chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus and that he was planning to present evidence backing his claims during meetings with his counterparts.

Recalling that even Putin had signaled that his country’s position could be changed if concrete evidence is found on the use of chemical weapons, Erdoğan said he found the Russian leader’s statement very interesting.

“This shows one thing: It’s interesting to see that Putin who was against a military intervention is now saying that they could either take part in such an action or support it if [the use of] chemical weapons is confirmed,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan, however, criticized Putin’s and other countries’ stances of mobilizing only after a chemical attack. “More than 100,000 people have been killed. You will not say anything about these killings. But you will call this attack a crime because it’s a chemical weapons attack killing 1,300 or 300 persons. You will say ‘We’ll support an action at the U.N. if it’s proven.’ Truly speaking, I have difficulty understanding this.”

Erdoğan also said he appreciated the French position vis-à-vis an attack against Syria, noting that Hollande had declared his country’s readiness to take part in any military action.