Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has increased the severity of his criticism of the international community's response to the Syria crisis and called on the UN Security Council to immediately accept a resolution that would allow humanitarian access to regions under shelling.
Frustrated by the inaction on the part of the international community including allies such as the US and EU countries, Davutoğlu stated that Turkey is the only international actor that cares about the killing of Syrians every day and so wants an immediate resolution in Syria, criticizing other countries and organizations such as the US, EU and Russia and Iran for their lethargy in taking action on the 23-month Syrian conflict.
“On the one hand, US and EU think that somehow or other [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad will go, so ‘we don't have to take the trouble of intervening in the situation.' On the other hand, Russia and Iran [supporters of the Assad regime] have come to agree that Assad should go, but after an election period in 2014. They see his leaving as a solution. But during this time [between now and Assad's departure], Turkey is the only actor who cares about how many more Syrians will be killed under Assad's violence,” Davutoğlu said on the second day of the Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee meeting on Friday in Ankara.
During his speech, in which he mentioned that Turkey and the EU are faced with the same challenges and advantages of the political transformation in the East Mediterranean, including the Arab Spring countries of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Yemen and civil-warn-torn Syria, Davutoğlu criticized members of the international community for being lethargic related to the Syrian crisis.
“Hesitation will only mean giving an opportunity to the oppressor to continue his oppression,” Davutoğlu noted.
The minister called on the UN Security Council to immediately take measures irrespective of the strategic calculations of the council member countries. He stated that Turkey acknowledges the different stance of Russia in terms of their interests in Syria, but he stated that Turkey even tried to design some resolution scenarios for the crisis that Russia would also not object to, just for humanitarian reasons.
In light of those scenarios, Davutoğlu first called on the UN Security Council to immediately accept a resolution that would allow humanitarian access to regions under shelling. “These would be mere humanitarian actions. We should create a mechanism which would provide food, health measures and security measures in destroyed regions. And whoever objects or targets our humanitarian acts, let us stand up to them together,” he stated.
Davutoğlu drew attention to the fact that currently a total of 3.5 million Syrians are displaced in Syria under harsh winter conditions and that immediate aid to them is necessary.
“It is our obligation to deliver humanitarian aid [to Syria], regardless of who the victims are; pro-regime or opposition, Sunni or Alawite, or Christian -- we should help them,” he noted.
Secondly, the minister invited the international community to take action against the war crimes in Syria -- crimes defined clearly in a UN convention. He stated that the international community has witnessed many war crimes in Syria, such as the killing of captives, and it has to take common action against these kinds of crimes, which will happen in the future in Syria.
Davutoğlu maintained that the situations in Syria and in the Arab Spring countries that managed to oust their dictators are not different from the wave of conflicts in the Balkans and Caucasus region in the 1990s.
Davutoğlu deemed the conflicts in the 1990s -- such as Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo -- “deep-seated conflicts” in which a deadlock became the status-quo and stated that Turkey's desire is that no such deep-seated and frozen conflicts should exist in Syria or other parts of the Mediterranean.
“There should be no other ‘Karabakh' or ‘Kosovo,' whose status is indefinite. The reform processes in the Middle East should be started before the political structures have been completely destroyed,” Davutoğlu remarked.
Middle East borders could be redrawn
While acknowledging that the territorial integrity of the states in conflict after the Arab Spring is important, Davutoğlu maintained that the international community should be ready for newly drawn borders in the Middle East.
“We should act flexibly in terms of the question of borders in the south part of the Mediterranean of today, as the people [in the Arab Spring] have been so tied together. We should lay the foundation of a new Mediterranean order. The common efforts of Turkey and the EU are the key in that question,” Davutoğlu said.
‘If Turkey was in the EU, it would now be the key actor in Arab Spring countries'
Davutoğlu also reproached EU parliamentarians in the meeting, mentioning the long EU accession process of Turkey.
While greeting the recent positive developments that would open one more chapter in the EU acquis communautaire, Chapter 22, after his talks with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius this week, Davutoğlu stated that Turkey should already be in the EU now.
“If Turkey was in the EU, the influence of EU countries in that crisis situation in Syria and all over the Mediterranean would certainly be more visible; it would not be so passive. I hope we will speak of Turkey and the EU not as separate entities one day,” Davutoğlu emphasized.
Davutoğlu said that Turkey can understand the hardship that EU states are going through due to the financial crisis, but he emphasized that those states should still take more action to help the economic development of the countries in a transitional period such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. He also pointed out that Western countries should prepare to give financial aid to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which are trying to cope with refugee influxes from Syria.
“EU countries have helped the economic development in Balkans after the conflict situation in the 1990s. Today, Yemen and Morocco have completed their transitional period and Tunisia and Egypt have almost managed to elect their permanent [post-transition] governments. Those countries have managed to stand up without a significant help from the EU. If they received any aid, they would much more easily have overcome their transitional period,” Davutoğlu maintained.
He also mentioned that Turkey is doing its best to help these countries, giving the example that it has already opened $2 billion in credit to Egypt.
The level of humanitarian aid from the international community, including EU countries, is very limited compared to the dimensions of the tragedy in Syria, according to Davutoğlu.
The minister stated that the total amount of aid EU countries delivered from the start of Syrian crisis reaches approximately 400 million Euro.
Latest situation in Turkish camps
Davutoğlu also discussed the latest figures related to Syrian refugees in Turkey.
According to the latest calculations, the number of Syrian refugees in 17 Turkish camps along the border has reached 182,000. Davutoğlu said that even though there are no clear statistics on it, the number of Syrians living in different towns in Turkey has reached 100,000.
Currently, a total of 372 classes have been opened for Syrian children in Turkey and 26,500 students are being educated in these classes. More than 1,200 teachers are giving the students education in the camps. A total of 923 of them are Arab teachers, which are chosen among the refugees whose real profession is teaching. A further 301 Turkish teachers are working in those camps.
In the camps, there are also 110 technical courses that have been opened for Syrian adults to develop their technical and professional skills.
Turkey has served around 730,000 patients in the field hospitals in camps and a total of 10,241 medical operations have been performed in these hospitals, saving the lives of many Syrians.
Moreover, 2,093 babies have been born in the camps and Turkey has opened preschools in consideration of the future of those children, Davutoğlu emphasized.
Davutoğlu said that the Turkish camps have better opportunities for Syrians compared to the conditions of the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Hélène Flautre, the co-chairwoman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, stated in response to Davutoğlu's criticism that European countries are sharing the pain and impatience that Turkey feels due to the Syrian crisis, but she rejected the idea of inaction of the EU on the crisis.
Davutoğlu's sharp response to Greek Cypriot deputy
During an EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee on Friday in Ankara, Davutoğlu provided a very interesting answer to a Greek Cypriot deputy who had spoken about the Cyprus dispute.
Davutoğlu was responding to Eleni Theocharous, a deputy from the Greek Cyprus main opposition Democratic Rally Party (DISY), who criticized the Turkish military operation in Cyprus in 1974 and the current presence of Turkish military in Cyprus as a human rights violation of Cypriots in her speech.
“We did not wake up one morning and said we should conduct a military operation in Cyprus. We used our international rights [as one of the guarantor states in the Cyprus dispute.] The real people who are deprived from conducting trade, deprived from even establishing a football team, are the Turkish Cypriots. At the time of the operation, there was a [Bashar al-] Assad type military government [in Greek Cyprus] who was massacring Turkish people. That is why we are there,” Davutoğlu noted in his criticism of the deputy.
Davutoğlu held Greek Cyprus responsible for the continued presence of the Turkish military in Cyprus. “Your administration has declined to accept the Annan plan for Cyprus in 2004. Your country is responsible for the lasting UN presence on the island,” he remarked.