Davutoğlu hints at secret Israeli-Syrian deal after attack

Davutoğlu hints at secret Israeli-Syrian deal after attack

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu says what is important is how Assad will respond to Israeli air strikes, not what the Turkish reaction to the attack will be. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Ali Ünal)

February 02, 2013, Saturday/ 17:59:00

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu criticized on Friday the Syrian government for not responding to an attack by Israel inside Syria earlier this week and said the Syrian stance raises suspicions that there is a secret deal between the two countries.

“Why has the Syrian army, which has been attacking its own people with warplanes and tanks for 22 months, not responded to this Israeli operation?” Davutoğlu asked when speaking to a group of journalists en route to Serbia. “Why doesn't [Bashar al-Assad] throw a stone at the Israeli planes while they fly over his palace and insult his nation's honor? Why doesn't he do anything against Israel while he drops bombs on the innocent people of his country? Is there a secret agreement between Israel and Assad?”

According to Davutoğlu, Syria should “do whatever a country that comes under attack should do.” He suggested the Israeli air strikes might serve interests of the Syrian government, saying Assad is “exploiting” the attack to bolster support for his regime among Muslim countries.

Israel launched an air strike inside Syria on Wednesday, reportedly targeting a convoy carrying anti-aircraft weapons bound for Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group allied with Syria and Iran. The Syrian military, however, denied that the target of the attack was a weapons convoy. It said low-flying Israeli jets crossed into the country over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and bombed a scientific research center.

According to a US official speaking to The Associated Press, the Israeli air strikes targeted trucks containing SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. The trucks were next to the research center the Syrians identified, and the strikes hit both the trucks and the facility.

On Thursday, Syria threatened to retaliate for the Israeli attack, stressing in a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon its "right to defend itself, its territory and sovereignty" and holding Israel and its supporters accountable.

Assad allies Russia and Iran have condemned the Israeli strike, with Iran saying that Israel “will regret its aggression against Syria.”

Turkey, a staunch critic of the Assad regime, has said the attack is a clear indication that the situation in Syria has become a threat to international and regional peace. “For this reason, we believe that the Syrian issue should be immediately resolved in all its dimensions,” former Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selçuk Ünal said at his final press conference before handing over his post on Thursday.

Davutoğlu was more openly critical of Israel, saying Turkey cannot remain a bystander in the face of an Israeli attack on a Muslim country.

But he said what is important is how Assad will respond, not what the Turkish reaction will be. “It is already obvious that we are sensitive [to an Israeli attack]. When Israeli planes bombed Syria in 2007, we were the first one to react against it,” he said.

Syria focus of Munich talks

Davutoğlu is scheduled to attend the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, in which Syria will be the main topic to be discussed.

The Munich Security Conference, which began on Friday with the 49th edition, is expected to draw a larger attendance than last year. The other topics expected to be discussed during the conference include the French intervention in Mali and Iran's nuclear program.

The United Nations-Arab League special envoy to war-torn Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is scheduled to appear in Munich, along with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and representatives of the Syrian opposition.

According to a senior Turkish diplomat, who spoke to Today's Zaman on condition of anonymity, Davutoğlu is scheduled to have several bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the conference. One of these meetings is to be with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The diplomat also stated that Davutoğlu may also have a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, adding the meeting is not yet definite due to Lavrov's schedule.

US Vice President Joe Biden also joins a dozen heads of state and government, and 70 foreign and defense ministers for the conference. Biden is expected to meet with Syrian Opposition Coalition head Mouaz al-Khatib, Brahimi and Lavrov on the sidelines of the conference.

The same diplomat also said that Turkish diplomats were in contact with the Kazakhstani and Macedonian sides in order to arrange a meeting with Davutoğlu on the sidelines of the conference. 

The conference is scheduled to finish on Sunday. 

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