Ankara issues diplomatic note to Damascus after consulate attacks

Ankara issues diplomatic note to Damascus after consulate attacks

Turkish Foreign Ministry delivered a diplomatic note to Syria's charge d'affaires over storming of Turkish Embassy. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Ali Ünal)

November 13, 2011, Sunday/ 15:47:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Ankara issued a diplomatic note to Syria on Sunday to communicate its concern about Saturday's attacks on its embassy in Damascus as well as consulates in other cities, which were carried out by around 1,000 pro-regime supporters who hurled stones and bottles at the embassy building. Ankara condemned the attacks that came in the aftermath of an Arab League decision to suspend Syria's membership.

“It is without a doubt significant for the attacks to target Turkish missions in a stronger and more intensive fashion and for this to have happened in the immediate aftermath of the decision by the Arab League [on Saturday],” a written statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. The statement noted that “it is a matter of honor and responsibility” for a host country to protect members of foreign missions. The ministry also issued a warning to Turkish nationals not to travel to Syria unless absolutely necessary due to difficulties in establishing public order, while also urging those currently in Syria to be cautious and remain in contact with Turkish missions at all times.

The attacks came on Saturday evening when around 1,000 pro-regime protestors gathered in Damascus to avenge the decision by the Arab League to suspend Syria's membership and employ economic sanctions in response to its failure to fulfill its promise and stop its crackdowns. The mob attacked the Turkish embassy with stones and bottles until Syrian police intervened to stop them, the Anatolia news agency reported on Sunday. The protestors also targeted French, Qatari and Saudi Arabian missions in the country; however no casualties were reported.

Hours after the assaults, accompanied by minor attacks against Turkish consulates in Aleppo and Latakia, Turkey decided to pull out the families of embassy personnel in Damascus, as well as some members of non-essential staff at the mission, Anatolia reported, citing diplomatic sources. A Turkish Airlines flight left for Damascus early Sunday morning to pick up the families in the face of deteriorating security conditions, sources told the agency. The embassy, however, still remains operational.

In a separate note released on Sunday, Turkish Foreign Ministry hailed the decision of the Arab League to suspend Syria as a sensible and timely step that displayed the seriousness of the situation in the country. “It has been disappointing for Turkey, like everybody else, to see that the Syrian regime has up to this day failed to fulfill the pledges it made on Nov. 2 in line with an agreement it reached with the Arab League,” the ministry stated.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hailing the decision by the Arab League, whose officials he maintains in close contact with on developments in Syria, said that the league had made the right move and Turkey was in full support of the decision.

“We were hoping for the league's initiative to be successful,” Davutoğlu told reporters from Serbia, noting that the Arab League was engaged in talks with Bashar al-Assad to stop the bloodshed, but the Assad regime had failed yet another opportunity to fulfill its promises. “The Syrian regime should perceive this as a clear message that the legitimacy of an administration that uses violence against its own people comes under question everywhere,” Davutoğlu said with reference to the decision from the Arab League, which he said Turkey was strongly cooperating with to decide on future possible moves.

Whether the suspension of Syria's membership pushes Syria's oppositional council, which has managed to organize itself in Turkey, to the surface and earns them recognition remains unknown. However, Davutoğlu highlighted that both Turkey and the chief of the Arab League have remained in contact with the Syrian National Council (SNC) and will continue to have talks with the group throughout November, after which Turkey will consult with the league again and decide on the next move. Syrian opposition gathered in Turkey on a number of occasions until it was able to come up with a council to speak for the demands of the Syrian people, as Turkey repeatedly reiterated that it was a democratic country and such peaceful gatherings were welcome to take place in the country, much to the dissent of Assad and his supporters.

“Just as our efforts found no answer from the Syrian regime, the efforts of the Arab League extended in goodwill were met with no responses,” Davutoğlu said, clarifying exhaustion with the Assad regime and noting that the league's move showed that the body's stance on the Syrian issue was becoming clearer. The Turkish foreign minister also announced that a Turkish-Arabic Forum will be held in Morocco on Nov. 16, which will unite foreign ministers from many countries, as the debated next moves will be further clarified.

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