Turkey offered Biden ‘Yemen model' for Syria
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc had brought up the "Yemen model" as an inspiration for a solution for war-torn Syria during his meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden at the White House last month, Today's Zaman has learned from a source who is intimately familiar with the content of the conversation.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The US vice president listened to the idea, stating that Turkey is an important ally and that the US values Turkey's position in the Middle East, including Syria, according to the same source.
The Yemen model incorporates a politically negotiated settlement without any recourse to a military intervention and envisages a transfer of power from embattled President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria to a caretaker while keeping the Baathist rule intact.
"If everyone wants a solution in Syria, considering the situation in the country, the Yemen model seems like something which would work as an inspiration and can be developed," a source who is familiar with Arinc's talks at the White House told Today's Zaman.
"The main goal here is to stop the bloodshed in the first place," said the source, who is in favor of the Yemeni model.
During the hour-and-a-half-long meeting, Arinc spoke about ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh along with a number of other issues at the White House on Nov. 22.
In Yemen, after months of diplomatic pressure and mass protests calling for his ouster, Saleh signed a deal in November 2011 transferring authority to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He was in power for more than 33 years.
Saleh's vice president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, was inaugurated as president in February 2012 after running in an uncontested election.
However, not everyone is enthusiastic about the Yemen model being applied to Syria.
"There might be some similarities between Yemen and Syria but we do not support a certain model for Syria. We think every country is different. It is clear what we want in Syria," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu told Today's Zaman when asked about the Yemeni model discussed at the White House.
Gumrukcu said Assad, who is responsible for the deaths of more than 150,000 people in Syria, is not wanted by his own people. He stated that Turkey wants the success of the Geneva II conference in January, resulting in a transitional government in Syria. The Geneva II conference, a long-planned international meeting, aims to bring Syrian opposition and regime members together.
"For one, Yemen has a more homogeneous society in terms of ethnic and religious structures as opposed to Syria," Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu said to a group of journalists on Tuesday, underlining that it is very difficult to implement a Yemen model today as a solution to the Syrian problem.
İhsanoğlu, who will leave his position at the end of the month after serving nine years, also said that in contrast to Yemen, there is considerable external interference in Syrian affairs, which makes it very difficult to work out solutions on the domestic front. The only way out of the Syrian deadlock, İhsanoğlu said, is the Geneva II conference. "The opposition needs to go to the Geneva II conference as a coherent group. They can agree on the basic parameters to move on with a transitional government," he added.
"When you consider the Russian support for the Syrian regime, what sort of formula can be found for a solution? The regime representatives will be at the table at the Geneva II conference. The only way out seems to be using the Yemeni model as an inspiration," said the source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
After his visit to Washington, Arinc said Ankara and Washington are in agreement on Syria and that their differences are not substantial. "Biden is an excellent politician who is a friend of Turkey and possesses good knowledge about what is happening in our region. His analysis has been very stimulating for us," said Arinc.
"I was pleased with the meeting because we had the chance to discuss every issue openly," Arinc added.
After security forces repressed peaceful protests against more than 40 years of Assad family rule in 2011, an armed revolt ensued with an increasingly sectarian element in Syria. About 150,000 people have been killed and millions forced from their homes.
Between 3,300 and 11,000 fighters from more than 70 nations, including a rising number from Western Europe, have joined the struggle in Syria against the Assad regime, the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), a partnership of five universities based at King's College London, reported on Tuesday.