turkey syria - AP - May 18 2011
Assad, left, shaking Erdogan’s hand during a meeting in 2009. Photo by AP
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“The government of Turkey is prepared to seek the approval of its parliament in order to deploy its forces in Syrian territory should the violence escalate and pose a threat to Turkey’s national security,“ warned Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday. This is the first time that Turkey has threatened the use of force and military deployment in Syria months after Turkish rhetoric has harshened toward the Assad regime, despite its previous opposition to foreign military intervention. Turkey, which demanded on Wednesday to establish a security zone in Syria for the purpose of protecting Syrian refugees fleeing cities which are being bombarded by the Syrian military, something it had previously been opposed to as well.

Davutoglu’s warning comes after an investigation by Turkish intelligence revealed that members of the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party), which is classified as a terrorist organization, infiltrated Turkey from the Syrian border. “Turkey will not allow Syria to use Kurdish terror against Turkey,“ Davutoglu threatened. During the 90s, Turkey and Syria were on the brink of war once it became clear that Syria was providing shelter to Abdullah Öcalan, who currently sits in a Turkish prison.

There is no doubt that if the Turkish government asks the parliament for approval to deploy its forces in Syria, it will receive it, as the parliament is controlled by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. However, alongisde Turkey’s willingness to use force to protect its national interests, it opposes arming the opposition or non-Arab military intervention. Turkey distinguishes between using force in order to prevent the trickling of terror from Syria into its territory and using force against the Syrian regime. If Turkey should use its force in Syria territory – for any reason – it will allow other countries to follow suit.

Special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan also joined Turkey in his opposition to arming the Syrian opposition. According to Annan, “arming the Syrian opposition may greatly complicate the situation in the country.“ Annan, who is staying in Cairo in the leadup to his visit to Syria heard similar things from Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr, who clarified that Egypt is against arming the opposition, as it may “increase the chances of a civil war.“ On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have demanded to arm the opposition, as they believe that due to the West unwillingness to attack Syria, there is no other choice but to arm the opposition.

Foreign Ministers to the Arab League are set to meet in Cairo on Saturday in order to discuss the situation in Syria. Furthermore, they will meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who, as it seems, will clarify that Russia has no intention of changing its supportive stance toward the regime. Another conference is set to take place later on this month in Istanbul, in which countries friendly to Syria will come up with a plan to aid its citizens and assist the thousands of refugees which fled the country to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

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