Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu arrived in Paris on Thursday for talks with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, ahead of an international meeting concerning the Syrian crisis on Friday.
The meeting in the French capital is the third gathering of the Friends of Syria group, which brings together the US and European and Arab countries as well as Turkey. The group first met in Tunisia in February, while the second gathering, attended by representatives from about 80 countries, was in İstanbul in April.
Russia and China, which have blocked attempts in the UN Security Council to condemn more harshly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, will boycott the Paris gathering as they did the previous meetings.
The Paris meeting is expected to focus on a UN-brokered plan for political transition in Syria, adopted at a gathering of world powers in Geneva on Saturday, and call on Russia to end its support for the Syrian regime.
Speaking at a press conference in Paris along with Fabius, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday that Russia should realize the Syrian crisis is out of control and it is pointless to back Assad, while Western and Arab states seek ways to end the crisis.
Hague said Saturday’s accord between the five UN Security Council members on a potential transition was a “step forward,” but it was now key for Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, to ensure it was implemented.
“Russia must understand that the situation in Syria is leading towards a collapse, to terrible and grave violence,” Hague told a news conference. “Even if Assad had a free hand to commit as many crimes as he wished, he is not able to control the situation in Syria. So there is no point anybody standing by the Assad regime.”
Both Hague and Fabius said the Annan-brokered agreement, which says a transitional governing body should be formed on the basis of mutual consent, implied Assad would not be part of any transition, yet Russia says there is nothing in the deal that forces Assad to step down.
Britain and France have led calls for Assad to step aside and warned they would seek a UN Security Council resolution to ensure the Geneva accord is put in place.
Fabius said that given the gravity of the situation, Paris wanted to see signs of movement “as quickly as possible” or else it would seek a resolution invoking the United Nations’ “Chapter VII” provision, which allows the Security Council to authorize actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention.
In remarks published earlier this week, Davutoğlu also said Assad should not stay in power, “not even for one more day” and that the Syrian president was “living in a world of fantasy” by assuming that Annan’s plan for political transition in Syria proved him to be right. Commenting on the Geneva meeting that adopted the UN plan, Assad has said that he was “pleased” that the decision about Syria’s future was left to its people.
Fabius said at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart on Thursday that the foreign ministers discussed Syria, Afghanistan and developments in the Middle East, along with Turkey-EU relations, trade and cultural issues.
Noting that France is determined to move forward with Turkey's relations with the EU, Fabius said “our ally Turkey is an indispensible actor and a stability factor in an unstable region.” Fabius added that there are many Turkish citizens living in France and that they could act as a bridge between the two countries.
He further stated that his perspective and Davutoğlu's are similar on Syria and that they want to end differences with a positive approach.
Davutoğlu told reporters that he visited Paris to start what he described as “a new period,” noting that Turkish-French diplomatic relations are important in terms of world diplomacy. He added that there is potential to advance relations and that the government is eyeing $15 billion in business volume between the two countries.
Davutoğlu also added that Turkish President Abdullah Gül will be pleased to host French President Francois Hollande in Turkey. Davutoğlu said Turkey has lifted sanctions it imposed on France earlier this year for a genocide-denial bill the French Assembly endorsed and that Fabius has ordered the necessary procedures to reopen the Bordeaux and Nantes consulates of Turkey be completed.