Turkey, which has been a permanent observer in the Arab League since 2007, wasn’t invited to the meeting by Iraq. But with the attendance of Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey did, in the end, participate in the Arab League foreign ministers meeting, which was held in Cairo in November 2011 and where sanctions were issued against Syria. It is assumed that recent tense relations with Turkey and especially the differentiation of Turkey’s Syria policy from that of Iraq, has influenced the attitude of Iraq. As for Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service, he was invited to the meeting. The Russian Federation wanted to attend the meeting but Baghdad obstructed this demand by putting forward different excuses (even asking for a test for tuberculosis). Moscow believed that Washington was behind this obstruction and not Baghdad. Syria topped the agenda in the meeting and although an agreement couldn’t be reached, in the 49-point final communiqué, Syria is advised to implement the six-point Annan Plan and there is a demand for the Syria issue to be solved without a foreign intervention.
The results of the second conference of Syria’s Friends Meeting held in İstanbul on April 1 after the Annan Plan and the Arab League’s Baghdad meeting, were widely anticipated. There were no surprises. Despite the tough messages for Syria, no steps (in terms of military and economic aids) were taken. The only prospective steps (emphasizing that the political system in Syria has lost its legitimacy and officially recognizing the Syrian National Council) were considered to be enough. Pressure on Damascus was increased. However, emphasizing that the opposition in Syria have a right to self-defense indicates that the way has been paved both for increasing financial aid to the opposition, even going so far as to arm the opposition in Syria. Giving salaries to the soldiers who fight for the opposition with the aim of encouraging more soldiers to defect from the army is a first step, and providing a more comprehensive support, including military solutions, for self-defense is a second. This proves that the influence of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular is producing results.
The Annan Plan managed to influence directly both Baghdad and İstanbul. However, it wouldn’t be realistic to interpret the Annan Plan as a plan that decreases the pressure towards the Damascus government and gains time for it. It would be more realistic for the Damascus government to consider the Annan Plan, which it accepted on March 27, as the light of the train coming towards it rather than the light at the end of the tunnel. This is because the İstanbul meeting will follow the lead of the Annan Plan. It will want to see how the Annan Plan will play out and the general principles of the plan. In this way, the stance of the Russian Federation, China, Iraq and Iran, who clearly stand on the ‘other side’ of the plan by not participating in the İstanbul Meeting, will prevent the Damascus government from hiding behind this plan. The wheels of the Annan plan are already in motion.