Turkey denies calling for Russia’s isolation over Syria policy

July 12, 2012, Thursday/ 00:22:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu did not target Russia or China when he called for greater pressure on and isolation of the Syrian regime and its supporters during an international meeting last week, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

“What Mr. Minister mentioned in his speech -- in the light of great international interest shown in the meeting -- is that pressure should be increased on the Syrian regime; and that those who support them should be isolated and efforts should be made to bring about a change in their position,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry said late on Wednesday.

The statement was a response to media interpretations claiming that he called for isolation of Russia and China during his speech, delivered during a gathering of the Friends of the Syrian People group, which convened in Paris on July 6 to support the Syrian opposition fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

“Mr. Minister did not mention any country by name in his speech during the meeting,” the statement said.

Davutoğlu, addressing the meeting of about 100 delegations from countries around the world and international organizations, also insisted in his speech that the Syrian regime has lost its legitimacy and that it should be replaced with a transitional government.

The Foreign Ministry statement came ahead of a planned trip by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Moscow on July 18 to discuss the Syria crisis.

Turkey and Russia have opposing stances regarding how the 16-month-old bloodshed in Syria should be ended, with Russia supporting the Assad regime while Turkey insisting that he should leave power. But experts say the government does not want the disagreements to turn into a Turkish-Russian crisis, as indicated by Erdoğan's upcoming visit to Moscow.

The Foreign Ministry said differences of opinion between countries regarding the Syrian crisis are normal but emphasized that channels of dialogue remain open with countries supporting the Assad regime.

“It is normal that there are diverse approaches towards the Syrian crisis. Indeed, the countries close to the Syrian regime criticized the [countries that are] members of the Friends of the Syrian People group. Nevertheless, in order to discuss our diverse approaches transparently, the dialogue and consultation channels are open with the countries that are close to the regime, including Russia and China. These dialogues are still continuing. Under these circumstances, it is clear that presenting the issue as a problem between Turkey and Russia is a deliberate distortion of the facts,” the statement said.

Davutoğlu's remarks have recently elicited criticism from some media commentators who accused the government of putting Turkey's national interests at risk by seeking a confrontation with Russia over Syria.

The Foreign Ministry denounced such comments, saying it is a “deliberate attempt to distort facts” to present disagreements over Syria between Turkey and Russia as a “problem” between these two countries.

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