Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has claimed it is too early to say whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will remain loyal to his pledge to observe a cease-fire in line with the UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, following the apparent downward trend in violence on Thursday morning.
Syria was set to observe a cease-fire from 6 a.m. on Thursday morning. International media outlets had previously reported a downward trend in violence from dawn onwards, but further casualties as a result of regime assaults were reported on Thursday afternoon.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission said on Thursday that three people had been killed in Syria. A commission statement said two people, including a child, were killed in Hama and another was killed in Idlib as snipers opened fire on a crowd during civilian protests, Turkish state-run Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday.
However, a spokesperson for the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), Abu İbrahim, said military operations had ended in and around Damascus.
Syria’s state-run news agency claimed that terrorist groups are behind some violent acts that occurred on Thursday, including a roadside bombing that took place in Aleppo.
“At eight in the morning a terrorist group targeted a bus carrying a number of officers driving to work in Aleppo,” Reuters reported, citing Syrian state media sources. The blast killed a lieutenant colonel and civilians were among the wounded.
During a joint press conference with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin in Ankara, Davutoğlu offered an overview of the latest situation in Syria.
The foreign minister said Turkey has been closely monitoring the process in Syria with its intelligence organizations. Since the deadline expired the Foreign Ministry has been in close contact with Turkish intelligence units in Syria.
“There are signs that violence has been reduced for some hours. However it is still too early to be sure [that the truce is being observed],” told Davutoğlu.
“Reports of a partial withdrawal from some places have surfaced. But pulling the forces out of the cities and maintaining the pressure on them should not be presented as a real withdrawal. The forces have to return to their barracks and assurances should be made that there will be no renewed violence on Syrian people,” he also noted. The office of UN-Arab League Syria envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered the cease-fire between dissidents and the regime, did not make it clear in its remarks on Wednesday whether or not a UN observer mission would be deployed in Syria to monitor the process following the Thursday deadline.
Criticizing the incidents of violence that spilled across Turkish borders when regime forces opened fire on targets inside Turkish territory, Davutoğlu said repetitive events of this kind could be described as a clear violation of borders. “We are investigating whether this [violence by Syrian forces across the Turkish border] happened as a result of impulsive behavior and we are continuing to follow developments closely,” he explained. The aforementioned incident came to light on Monday, after regime forces opened fire on Syrians fleeing to Turkey, killing at least three people in a refugee camp in Turkey. On the same day, violence sprang up on the Lebanese border as well, killing one TV journalist. The bloodshed at the borders was a sign of how easily Syria’s neighbors could be drawn into a wider conflict. Turkish media reported a similar event late on Wednesday. Syrian troops tried to pass through the Öncüpınar border post in Turkey’s southern province of Kilis, again targeting Syrians fleeing to Turkey, but no casualties had yet been reported by the time Today’s Zaman went to print.
Davutoğlu made it clear that any security breach in Turkish borders could become an international issue, because Turkey is a NATO member country. “If such an incident occurs, [violation of borders] we reserve our right to take necessary measures using our international capacity. We maintain contact with our allies in NATO and could take initiatives to prevent the violation of our borders,” he remarked.
Davutoğlu added that Turkey will continue to exert efforts to extend humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.
In his remarks on Wednesday, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), noted that the Syrian crisis is a very delicate issue and warned the international community about the repercussions the crisis will have for regional countries. “Any wrong step [taken with regard to the Syrian crisis] would have wider implications for the whole region,” he said.
Cutting short his trip to China and returning to Turkey due to the recent developments on Turkish borders, Davutoğlu attended a video conference with the G8 foreign ministers on Wednesday evening to discuss the most recent developments in the escalating 13-month-old Syrian crisis.