Turkey, US Have a Plan B on Syria if Geneva Meeting Fails

Are Upcoming "Peace" Talks A Setup? 
Turkey, US Have a Plan B on Syria if Geneva Meeting Fails
By CELİL SAĞIR/ABDÜLHAMİT BİLİCİ
May 25, 2013 "Information Clearing House" -"Zaman" -- İSTANBUL -- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said Turkey and US have alternative option, a Plan B, if the upcoming Geneva meeting fails to provide a viable political solution to the two-year-old Syrian conflict.
Speaking to a group of Turkish reporters on Friday, Davutoğlu spoke on a wide array of themes and issues surrounding Turkish foreign policy at a time when Ankara faces a pile of challenges, especially with regard to the intractable Syria crisis.
Denying criticism suggesting that Turkey has shifted its policy and was forced to back initiatives for a diplomatic solution as result of a strong pressure from the US and Russia, Davutoğlu said Turkey has always backed a diplomatic solution, saying that while other countries immediately described the Bashar al-Assad regime illegitimate from the very beginning, Turkey had struggled to persuade Syrian President Assad for a political solution for nine months.
Noting that Turkey has always involved in diplomatic initiatives and efforts, Davutoğlu asserted that Turkey is in contact with Arab countries, Iran, Russia and Western countries, working on formulas which contemplate the political future of Syria with or without Assad.
He stated that formulas for a political solution in Syria that will be discussed in the Second Geneva meeting, were shaped during those diplomatic efforts and Ankara also contributed to the content of formulas.
Expressing his hopes ahead of Geneva meeting, Davutoğlu said Ankara and Washington reached an accord over their standing on Syria in the meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama in Washington, D. C. on May 16.
He, however, declined to elaborate on details of a strategy, the Plan B, which is developed by Turkey and US as an alternative policy in case of a failure in the Geneva II.
Regarding the recent diplomatic efforts ahead of Geneva meeting, Davutoğlu said 11 countries attending at Friends of Syria alliance meeting in Amman on May 22 agreed on a common policy, exclusion of Assad in the formation of a new transitional government that will bring elements from the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition alike.
According to the proposal upon which the countries agreed at the meeting in Amman, all powers and rights in new transitional government should be transferred to those who don’t have blood on their hands.
Davutoğlu said Turkey backs such a formula for an enduring political solution, but if it fails in the Geneva meeting, the type of support that 11 countries, which recently convened in Amman, provide to the Syrian opposition will change, hinting that the international backers of Syrian National Council (SNC) would consider openly arming the opposition.  
He also said the EU is expected to lift arms embargo on opposition forces in an upcoming meeting of foreign ministers which he will also attend in early June.
Defending what he says a humanist and value-oriented standing of Turkey regarding the intractable Syrian conflict, Turkish foreign minister identified three categories of states, relying on their response to the Syria crisis.
“The first group involves states which conspicuously and persistently back Assad regime. These kind of states, which do not welcome democracy in their political system, see Syria at the core of their regional policies and therefore do their utmost efforts to keep the Baath regime at power,” Davutoğlu said.
“The second group includes Western countries that proceed inconsistent policies regarding the Syrian crisis,” the foreign minister said, lamenting the fact that the Western world has remained indifferent to the ongoing bloodletting in the war-torn country although it had declared the Assad regime illegitimate from the very beginning.
Davutoğlu stated that Turkey and the Arab League fit to the third category, in which countries in this group stand along with the Syrian people and increasingly involve in the crisis, developing policies due to fast-moving changes on the ground.
He argued that if Turkey did not have a value-based standing and instead stood by the Assad regime, it would have been a historical mistake for Turkey and would set a bad example, as was in the case of Turkish foreign policy during the Algerian independence war against France in 1950s and early 1960s.
He rebuked the charges of backing the wrong horse in Syria crisis, deeming such criticism as unethical.
When asked about whether there is a major failure in Turkish foreign policy regarding the prolonged Syrian crisis, Davutoğlu expressed his dismay, saying that they (Turkey) failed to predict the scale of violence that the Syrian regime and Assad could execute against their own people.
“We couldn’t know how barbarian Assad would become, acting differently from his usual character suggests to behave,” he told reporters. “Her mother has a great influence over Assad. She always reminds him of his father’s handling with the Hamah revolt.”
 “We didn’t expect that those countries, which rushed to declare Assad regime illegitimate when the uprising began, could be so indifferent to the ongoing conflict,” said Davutoğlu.
“Turkey has failed to see that some countries would zigzag during the Syrian uprising as happened in the Bosnian crisis,” he said in an indirect reference to western powers.  
He also lamented that designating use of chemical weapons as a “red line” gave a green light to Assad for using any conventional weapons and employ military methods other than using the chemical weapons.
The US had said it views any use of chemical weapons in Syria as a "red line," hinting this could lead to some form of foreign intervention.
In addition, another major mistake, Davutoğlu said, has been the failure to see how susceptible and prone Turkish public to the East-originated manipulative propaganda, in an implicit reference to the Iranian influence over some Turkish media outlets.

'Iran, Hezbollah involve in fighting'

As news reports suggest the increasing presence of Iranian military officials and Hezbollah fighters in the Syrian conflict, Davutoğlu said two actors have now involved in the battlefield since March in an act of solidarity with the embattled Assad regime.
Currently, 2,000 Hezbollah fighters engaged in heavy clashes around the town of Qusayr, a scene of armed skirmishes between the opposition forces and Assad troops, Davutoğlu said.
He portrayed the new development as an attempt to tip the balance on the battleground in favor of the Assad regime in order to push the sides to accept a solution that leaves Assad at power.

‘West’s denial of military support to FSA contributed to al-Nusra's growing clout’

Turkish foreign minister also touched upon much-debated the radical opposition al-Nusra Front, which currently appears the most coherent and capable militant forces among the fractured and disparate opposition fighters at a critical time as forces loyal to Assad seems to have appeared ascendant on battlefield over the past two months.
Al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front was recognized as a terrorist organization by the US and is seen as a primary factor for the West's reluctance of arming the opposition forces . The West is apparently unease with the growing presence of radical elements on the ground.
According to Davutoğlu, the chief cause of al-Nusra’s growing ascendancy among opposition forces is the West’s approach towards the Syrian opposition fighters, stressing the fact that the denial of military assistance to the moderate groups such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) led by Gen. Salim İdris fuelled the support to Nusra-like units.
Adding to that, designating the al-Nusra Front as a terrorist group produced the opposite of the desired effect and contributed to its growing presence, Davutoğlu stated.
He said Turkey opposes all radical groups in Syria, however, adding that Ankara views al-Nusra factor not as a cause but as an effect and consequence of what the Assad regime has done in Syria. Davutoğlu pointed out that he urged the US officials in the meeting in Washington also to focus on the conditions that created al-Nusra, rather than just concerning over the group itself.
Davutoğlu also denied claims of Turkey’s military assistance and supply of weapons to the Syrian opposition, saying that those which always question Ankara’s position must closely look at what others are doing on ground.
He said Turkey has spent $ 1 bln so far as part of the humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees, including the aid sent to Syria.
See also
Syria opposition unity talks face collapse: Syrian opposition talks aimed at presenting a coherent front at an international peace conference to end the civil war faced the prospect of collapse after President Bashar al-Assad's foes failed to cut an internal deal, opposition sources said on Friday.

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