Senior military officials to meet in Jordan for Syria talks

Senior military officials to meet in Jordan for Syria talks

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to launch homemade rockets in an offensive attack against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor on Saturday. (Photo: Reuters)

August 25, 2013, Sunday/ 11:09:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Senior military officials from Turkey, the US and other western countries are scheduled to meet in Jordan in the upcoming days to discuss the situation in Syria and possible ways to respond to allegations of chemical weapons use in a Damascus suburb on Wednesday.

Although there were reports claiming that Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel is expected to join his allied counterparts in Jordan for Syria talks, a senior Turkish official, who spoke to Today's Zaman on the condition of anonymity, stated that it was not Özel but a senior military official that would join the meeting, adding that military chiefs from other countries may join.

According to reports, beside the military chiefs of the United States, its main Western allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also expected to join he meeting.

Meanwhile the same official added that senior diplomats from Turkey, the US and other countries are scheduled to meet in İstanbul on Monday for talks on latest situation in Syria. From Turkish side, former Ambassador to Syria Ömer Önhon would participate, according to official.

The meeting in Jordan, planned two months ago, is the third that the top military officers have held on Syria this year, but it has gained new urgency since a nerve gas attack reported to have killed hundreds near Damascus this week.

A Jordanian defense source said the defense chiefs of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Italy were expected to attend, along with those of Turkey, which has already seen the conflict spill over its border, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are both supporting Syrian anti-government rebels.

"This meeting comes as part of ongoing continued security, military and political coordination to assess the current events in Syria and their repercussion on the security of the region in general," the source said.

A Pentagon spokesman said the US Central Command and the Jordanian armed forces were co-hosting the regional defense talks from Aug. 25 to 27, and that the conference had been planned since June.

Wednesday's chemical weapons attack, in which between 350 and 1,000 or more people are reported to have been killed, has increased the pressure for foreign intervention in Syria's two-year-old civil war.

The United States has said it is repositioning naval forces in the Mediterranean to give President Barack Obama the option for an armed strike on Syria, although officials stressed that Obama had not decided on military action.

Washington has already stationed F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missiles in Jordan, which has received about a quarter of the 2 million Syrian refugees who have fled abroad, and is considering providing Jordan with manned US surveillance aircraft to help it monitor its border with Syria.

A European defense source said events in Damascus had given the meeting a new urgency.

"We had been expecting to talk mainly about stabilizing Jordan," he said. "Instead, it will be dominated by Syria. It's all really waiting on the Americans and what they decide they want to do."

"There have been discussions, but so far they have been very inconclusive. As the scale of what happened in Damascus becomes clear, that may change."

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