Turkey had talks with Iranian officials on Monday, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has much influence on the Syrian regime, to discuss recent developments in Turkey's southern neighbor.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said early on Tuesday that it is very important for the dynamic transformation process in the Middle East to be shaped by developments in the region, as opposed to outside actors. “This is why there is a need for very close consultations with friendly and neighboring countries that might have an influence on regional developments,” Davutoğlu told Turkish journalists in Tehran, where he went on Sunday to have talks with officials of the Islamic republic.
In Iran, Davutoğlu on Monday met with Ahmadinejad, Iranian Parliament Chairman Ali Larijani and Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili to discuss bilateral relations and regional developments. The foreign minister also had talks with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, on Sunday.
Recalling that he had talks in Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia after parliamentary elections in Turkey, Davutoğlu said Egypt is in a period of transition, that a meeting of the Libya Contact Group will be held in Turkey and that developments in Syria concern everyone. “We attach importance to completing in peaceful ways the political reform processes in friendly and neighboring countries without creating a security risk," Davutoğlu said, adding that this is the reason why Turkey finds it important to hold consultations with regional countries. Davutoğlu stressed that regional realities should be the elements that decide the outcome of the transformation process.
Davutoğlu's remarks came as tensions between Syria and the United States flared on Monday after loyalists of the Syrian regime attacked the US Embassy in Damascus. The United States, which sees Syria as a fragile but crucial element of any lasting Middle East peace equation, had been reluctant to demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step aside, but US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments on Monday indicated Washington's patience had run out.
“If anyone, including President Assad, thinks that the United States is secretly hoping that the regime will emerge from this turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong,” Clinton said. “President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.”
Aside from Saudi Arabia and Iran, Davutoğlu could also visit Egypt, Bahrain, Lebanon and Syria over the coming two days, but his itinerary had not yet been fixed, reports said.
İstanbul is set to host a contact group meeting on Libya on Friday that will bring together foreign ministers from various Western powers, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and representatives of the Libyan opposition to map out the future and avoid instability after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's eventual departure.
A major Muslim partner in NATO and a candidate for EU membership, Turkey's foreign policy has moved away from being almost solely Western-facing in recent years and has actively engaged fellow Muslim countries and former Cold War adversaries in the old Soviet bloc. Recalling his meetings with Iranian officials, Davutoğlu said they have discussed all regional developments, and particularly the situation in Syria.
The Turkish foreign minister also said the officials sought ways to coordinate efforts in reform processes in these countries. “Syria is a close friend of both Iran and Turkey, which has close relations with the two countries. It is important for us that there are no more civilian deaths and that the country starts work on reforms as soon as possible,” Davutoğlu said.
Davutoğlu added that Turkey has expressed its position on this to the Iranian side and listened to the Iranian side, adding that both countries agreed on the “inevitability of [the] reform process in Syria and that the process should be completed without instability.”
Stressing that it is important that tensions in Syria end and that the country has a peaceful Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, Davutoğlu said Turkey will continue its work in this regard and maintain its contacts with all sides to make sure that the process follows the legitimate demands of the people without risking regional stability. Syrian instability is one of the greatest concerns for Turkey because the two countries share a border and have a similar sectarian and ethnic make-up. The foreign minister said he has discussed the reform process in Syria with Iran and that Turkey will continue its coordination with the Islamic republic with respect to this reform process.
Iran is touted as an influential country in Syria and its chief supporter, as both countries see Israel as their arch enemy in the region. Observers say Iran has much leverage over Syria's Baath regime and that it could be helpful to urge Iran to spur the Syrian regime to stop its brutal crackdown on protesters and to speed up earlier pledges for reforms.