As of today, there are serious doubts that the Syrian regime is implementing the six points of the Annan Plan, especially with regards to a genuine and comprehensive cease-fire. Both UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan have expressed concern over the deteriorating situation on the ground, even after Damascus accepted the cease-fire. Fighting continues in various Syrian cities and regime forces have been responsible for the killing of hundreds of people since the first week of April, when the regime supposedly accepted the terms of the Annan Plan. The first batch of UN observers has arrived in Syria, but they are already facing a number of problems, as voiced by the UN secretary-general on Tuesday.
All parties, including Russia and China, have agreed on the Annan Plan. This is a positive development, and Turkey supports it. But as the process continues, it is becoming clear that the Annan Plan is interpreted in different ways. The Syrian regime and its supporters take the Annan Plan to be a way of keeping the Damascus regime intact while supposedly starting a political negotiation with the opposition. If the regime honors the cease-fire agreement, it is thought, it will become a legitimate interlocutor and can secure its political future.
But the Annan Plan, as supported by the UN Security Council, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other countries, including Turkey, is not designed to give more time to the regime. Its main purpose is to implement an immediate, genuine and comprehensive cease-fire and begin the process of a peaceful transfer of power.
The heart of the matter is this last point, and it defines the meaning of the Arab revolutions. People’s demand for a dignified, free and democratic order in Syria cannot be compromised for short-term political gain. The so-called power struggle between the Saudi-Qatari and Iranian axis should not be used to justify the illegitimate and inhuman acts of a failing regime. Instead of sailing against the tide of history, Russia, China, Iran and others should position themselves with the Syrian people and contribute to the creation of a viable political order in Syria.
Turkey, along with a host of other countries and international bodies, has tried its best to make the peaceful transfer of power possible, but the regime has responded with defiance, oppression and violence. Since military intervention is not an option in Syria, the country is stuck in a stalemate and on the verge of a costly and protracted civil war. Supporting the regime at all costs only makes the situation worse. Those who are responsible for this need to reassess their strategic goals and humanitarian priorities.
Turkey is neither one step ahead nor behind in Syria. It continues to act in coordination with other countries in the region and the international community. Even though Russia, China and Iran see the Syrian file from a different point of view, Turkey has continued to talk to these countries. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went to Iran and China and held extensive discussion with the leaders of these countries on Syria. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu went to Russia to coordinate Turkey’s efforts with this and other countries. The wisdom of Turkey not acting alone has helped build an international coalition of responsible countries and institutions that support the legitimate demands of the Syrian people. The Friends of the People of Syria meeting, held in İstanbul on April 1, was attended by 83 countries and international institutions and played a key role in the Syrian regime’s decision to accept the Annan Plan.
Turkey will continue to support the Syrian people and their vision for a democratic, free and prosperous Syria. The best way to achieve this is to go to the people itself and put the ballot box before them. If free and fair elections are held under international monitoring, the result will be the ultimate point of reference for the future of Syria. But this cannot happen as long as the regime is allowed to play political games. A concerted and sustained pressure is still needed under the Annan Plan.