Turkey risks Syria's friendship in last-ditch effort to end violence
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu is in Damascus today to warn Syria's President Assad against continuing his crackdown on the country's uprising.
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Having almost gone to war in the late 1990s over Syria harboring Kurdish militants, the friendship became a virtual poster-child for Erdogan's foreign policy of "zero problems with neighbors."Skip to next paragraph
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Erdogan has holidayed with Assad, their cabinets have held joint meetings, Turkey has become Syria's biggest trading partner, the neighbors have visa-free travel between them, and Turkey tried to broker a peace deal between Syria and Israel.
Many analysts say that Syria has given no indication that it plans to make any concessions in the meeting with Davutoğlu today. Reuters reports that Syrian troops today stormed the town of Binnish, less than 20 miles from the Turkish border, and continued their assault on Deir al-Zour in the east.
One option being considered is the establishment of a buffer zone inside Syria. If violence against towns near the Turkish border continues, that option becomes more likely, a columnist writes in Hurriyet.
If unrest moves into Aleppo, a Syrian city with 3 million inhabitants located only 26 miles from the Turkish border, there could be a massive wave of refugees into Turkey. And do not forget the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. This group, which has launched destructive terrorist attacks in Turkey, is well organized in the ethnically Kurdish areas of northern Syria along the Turkish border, including Azez. The Syrian membership of the PKK also represents the group’s hard-line, violence-is-the-best-policy branch. A flow of Syrian refugees into Turkey would mean at least a few undetected hard-line PKK members slipping across the border, which is something that Ankara does not want. Ankara’s first reaction to the spiraling violence in Syria will be to contain the crisis in Syria.
This would also help Turkey maintain the growing soft power it has painstakingly built in the Arab world since the AKP rose to power in 2002. So, expect Turkey to avoid direct military intervention to the extent possible. Instead, expect Ankara be serious about its proposal to set up a buffer zone inside Syria, in which the Turkish government and military would provide the Syrian citizens with security and relief.