PM says Turkey will not take unilateral action on Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses AK Party deputies during a parliamentary meeting. (Photo: Cihan)

September 21, 2012, Friday/ 10:57:00

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said his country would not consider playing a stronger unilateral role in the Syrian crisis by creating a no fly-zone over parts of Syria, a move he says requires joint international action.

In an interview with The Washington Post published on Thursday, Erdoğan was asked whether Turkey, “which has a strong army,” would take unilateral action on imposing a no-fly zone over Syria. The prime minister said “no.” “If there is an attack on our country, then we would do what is required. But this situation has an international dimension and a dimension that concerns the Islamic world. So the UN and also the Arab League should be involved with respect to Syria,” he said. He underlined that “the decision of the UN Security Council would be important in that case.”

Syrian opposition fighters have expanded the territory they hold near the Turkish border in the last few weeks, and opposition groups have said they need the protection of no-fly zones and safe havens patrolled by foreign forces.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Aug. 11 that Washington and Turkey were looking at all measures to help the insurgents, including a no-fly zone, although no member of the UN Security Council has formally proposed such a move and the option has gained little traction so far.

A no-fly zone and a NATO bombing campaign helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. But the West has shown little appetite for repeating any Libya-style action in Syria, and Russia and China strongly oppose any such intervention.

When asked whether he sees any hope that China and Russia will change their position and stop supporting the regime, Erdoğan said he believes that they, too, believe that Assad will go. “The question they ask is: What happens after Assad? My answer to them is that if we believe in a democratic parliamentary system, then the will of the people will be what will come to pass. We do not wish to see any external intervention in trying to form a regime in Syria. What we envision is a transitional government basing its actions on a fair constitution, a system where people are free to elect candidates and establish political parties.”

Asked about whether the US is hindering Turkey from allowing anti-aircraft weapons to cross the border into Syria and how the Syrian opposition could possibly win the war without anti-aircraft weapons, Erdoğan said that the US's active role in the region was so far verbal, as it has contributed to the settlement of the Syrian crisis only through making statements.

“Support has been given to the opposition by countries in the region and Syrians who live outside of Syria,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey mainly provides logistical support -- food and medicine.

For now, 83,000 Syrian refugees are residing in tent cities set up for Syrians who fled their country to Turkey, as Turkey provides support to those who seek refuge in refugee camps. So far, the total amount of this support is more than $250 million. “We will continue to provide this support to our brothers and sisters, the neighborly people of Syria,” Erdoğan said.

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