US assures Turkey over 'appropriate' Syria action

US assures Turkey over 'appropriate' Syria action

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
US assures Turkey over appropriate Syria action

An F/A-18F is seen on the USS Harry S Truman in the Mediterranean, as the US's top defense official says his country is ‘ready to go’ if called on to strike the Syrian regime. AFP photo

Amid the ever-nearing probability of an international attack on Syria, diplomatic traffic in Ankara has reached a feverish pace, with Washington seeking to assure its Turkish ally that it is prepared to do what is necessary against Damascus.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry informed Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Aug. 26 that the U.S. had decided to take “appropriate action” against the use of chemical agents in Syria. The U.S. informed the Turkish side that Washington has been working on “what would be the appropriate action” if the U.N. Security Council cannot take a decision against Syria due to the likely vetoes of Damascus’ main backers, China and Russia, according to diplomatic sources. Kerry and Davutoğlu discussed possible steps that could be taken in the upcoming days and weeks. 

The two ministers shared their belief that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was attempting to conceal the truth by blocking U.N. inspectors from visiting Ghouta, a Damascus suburb in which hundreds were killed in a chemical gas attack on Aug. 21.

Meanwhile, a U.N. team that did finally head to the area on Aug. 26 was attacked by snipers from a Syrian military position, the international body said. No one was injured in the attack.

Before his conversation with Kerry, Davutoğlu talked to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by phone. Russia insists on seeing the outcome of a report by U.N. inspectors investigating the Aug. 21 attack before taking the issue to the U.N. Security Council, according to sources. 

Davutoğlu, meanwhile, said the gas attack constituted a “crime against humanity” and was a test for the international community. 

“This is a crime against humanity and a crime against humanity should not go unanswered; what needs to be done must be done. Today, it is clear the international community is faced with a test,” Davutoğlu said.

Turkey’s priority is for the U.N. Security Council to adopt a unified position and impose sanctions against those who commit crimes against humanity, the minister said. 

Previously, however, Davutoğlu said Turkey would join any international coalition if such a consensus proved impossible. As part of such hectic diplomatic activity, the Foreign Ministry announced that Davutoğlu would pay a two-day working visit to Saudi Arabia between Aug. 27 and 28. The visit aims both to restore chilled ties between Saudi Arabia and Turkey over the military coup in Egypt and provide a forum to discuss Syria.

The U.S. military is ready to act immediately should President Barack Obama order action against Syria over the chemical weapons attack, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a television interview with the BBC on Aug. 27. 

“We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Hagel said during a trip to Brunei, according to a partial transcript provided by the BBC. Asked if the U.S. military was ready to respond just “like that,” Hagel said: “We are ready to go, like that.”

Hagel’s comments came a day after Kerry laid the groundwork for possible military action against the Syrian government by saying Obama believed there needed to be “accountability” for the use of chemical weapons. 

Hagel said the United States would have intelligence to present “very shortly” about the attack but noted after calls with his British and French counterparts that there was little doubt among most U.S. allies that “the most base ... international humanitarian standard was violated.”