Countries attending a UN-initiated international conference about the Syrian situation on Saturday in Geneva have agreed to establish a transitional government, which Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has deemed “an important first step” toward resolution of the crisis in Syria.
“There have been many promises made [to solve the Syrian situation] but they have not been implemented on the ground. Turkey would closely monitor [whether this solution is implemented in reality],” the foreign minister said to members of the Turkish press after the meeting.
The meeting in Geneva was convened on the initiative of joint UN and Arab League Syria envoy Kofi Annan, and gathered five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, to discuss the Syrian crisis. The concept of a transitional government to which the parties agreed would include the Syrian opposition, but in no way exclude people from the incumbent administration, upon Russia’s insistence.
The UN plan calls for the establishment of a transitional national unity government with full executive powers, which may include members of Bashar al-Assad’s government, members of the opposition and other groups. It would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and the scheduling of elections.
“This [UN plan in Syria] is just a beginning, not a resolution. Instead of approaching this as an absolute resolution, it should be perceived as a new step or perspective in the resolution,” Davutoğlu remarked about the final decision of the Geneva conference. Davutoğlu also noted that lengthy discussion of issues and intensive debates had taken place during the meeting, and that the final document of the conference had been formed after negotiations regarding bilateral differences between attending parties.
Russia, a close ally of the Syrian regime, showed resistance to solutions involving the ousting of President Assad from power. The nation has demonstrated its support for the Syrian regime since the beginning of the violent regime-led crackdown against opposition forces. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by international media outlets as saying that there was “no attempt [at the meeting] to impose on the Syrian people any type of transitional process,” emphasizing that the newly minted plan for resolution does not imply the comprehensive dismissal of the Assad regime.
Professor Fuat Keyman of İstanbul’s Sabancı University claimed that the proposed move would allow the Assad administration to remain in power for a certain period of time, but that it would also save the country from the kind of political ambiguity that may lead to chaos in Syria. The Syrian opposition is far from inspiring confidence in the international community as to its ability to hold power due to its fragmented state, representing the country’s ideological and sectarian divide. Unlike Libya’s National Transitional Council, which brought together most factions fighting against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, Syria’s opposition has no leadership on the ground.
Keyman deemed the new formula of a transitional government “a gradual regime change” in the country, this time with Russia’s consent. “The plan envisages the exit of Assad in one or one-and-a-half years’ time, because he has no chance of winning if there are free elections,” Keyman noted. He added that Turkey should evaluate every possible scenario in Syria with level-headedness, including one in which the Assad regime holds power in conjunction with other groups.
With international tensions running high, there was a risk of the situation devolving into a bilateral crisis between Turkey and the Assad regime last week after Syria shot down a Turkish warplane, in response to which Turkey stationed anti-aircraft guns along its southern border.
Before the Geneva meeting, Davutoğlu stated to members of the Turkish press that Turkey would act with deliberation in evaluating the Syrian situation. “Turkey is neither a ‘hard power’ nor a ‘soft power’; it is a ‘smart power.’ We would neither act impulsively nor would we let such a threat go,” Davutoğlu maintained.
Erdoğan gathers security summit to discuss Syria jet crisis
As consultations among foreign ministers of the world on the Syrian situation were proceeding in Geneva on Saturday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a security summit at the prime minister’s residence to discuss the Syrian attack on the Turkish plane and strained relations with Damascus.
The summit, chaired by Erdoğan, was attended by both civilian and military officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu and Gendarmerie Commander Bekir Kalyoncu.
Amid rising tensions, the National Security Council (MGK), Turkey’s highest national security body, discussed the jet crisis in detail during its scheduled meeting on Thursday. “Turkey will act with determination against this violent act by reserving all rights under international law,” read a statement released after the meeting, without further elaboration.
Turkey has said the Syrian attack will not go unpunished, but has also made clear that it has no intention of declaring war on its southern neighbor. The government is reportedly planning some sort of retaliation, but its timing and circumstances will be decided by the government, according to unconfirmed reports in the Turkish media.