Turkey rules out cutting water flow to Syria

Türkiye Materials 18 November 2011 08:45 (UTC +04:00)
Turkey has ruled out cutting water flowing to Syria from Turkey as part of sanctions on Syrian regime over its brutal military crackdown on protesters and army defectors, underlining that all measures against the Syrian regime must not harm people, Today's Zaman reported.
Turkey rules out cutting water flow to Syria

Turkey has ruled out cutting water flowing to Syria from Turkey as part of sanctions on Syrian regime over its brutal military crackdown on protesters and army defectors, underlining that all measures against the Syrian regime must not harm people, Today's Zaman reported.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, speaking at a conference in İstanbul on Thursday, said nations must be careful while imposing sanctions and taking measures against the Syrian regime. He said strong signals must be sent to the government but people should not be harmed in this process. Davutoğlu added that Turkey will continue to undertake its measures but ruled out any sanctions that will affect Syrian people including cutting water flow.

Turkey is currently releasing on average 517 cubic meters per second instead of the required 500 cubic meters per second, sacrificing its own energy needs in the process.

But both Iraq and Syria accused Turkey of taking too much from the rivers and their tributaries. Any cut in water flow to Syria will also affect Iraq, wrecking swaths of farm land and threatening drinking water supplies.

Turkey earlier ruled out that it will cut electricity it shares with Syria out of humanitarian concerns but said this week it might reconsider cutting the power lines after pro-regime protesters stormed Turkish diplomatic missions across Syria and burned a Turkish flag.

But on Thursday, Davutoğlu categorically rejected that Turkey will ever consider cutting water flow to Syria. Turkey previously threatened Syria with cutting water flow in early 1990s when Syria is believed to be abetting jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and tolerating to PKK camps.

For years, Syria complained that Turkey is not releasing required amount of water but this has changed in the past few years as part of Davutoğlu's foreign policy strategy that includes good relations with neighbors.

Davutoğlu said the Arab Spring is taking a different course in every country, warning that everything can derail in Turkey's southern neighbor that sits on fragile fault lines of various ethnic and sectarian communities and that careful steps must be taken for this reason.

Davutoğlu particularly stressed that actions that imply external pressures may backlash and that it is important the Arab League take a lead in this process. He said Turkey will also have a say in this process as a neighbor but will not make a decision regarding the fate of its neighbor.

Underlining that it is necessary not to accept sectarian and ethnic divisions in Syria, Davutoğlu said all Syrian citizens are equal for Turkey. "Everyone in Syria is equal for us. We believe Syrian National Council must be more inclusive," Davutoğlu added. He was referring to the council founded by exiled Syrian opposition in İstanbul recently that is believed to be coordinating some part of protests across Syria and seeking ways to topple the Syrian regime.

Speaking about possible measures in ending crisis in Syria, Davutoğlu said the best thing to do is to deal with the problem multilaterally. He added that there must be a process based on multilateral cooperations and that the Arab League must take a leadership in this process.

"As Turkey, we have a special position as we our neighbors. Everything we do will affect security, even domestic security," Davutoğlu said, without elaborating what he was referring by domestic security. There were increasing concerns raised by observers lately that unrest in Syria may ignite instability in Syria's restive areas predominantly populated by ethnic Kurds and further complicate conflict Turkey is trying to deal with members of the terrorists Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Davutoğlu said autocratic regimes that three fundamental arguments in justifying the legitimacy of their regimes. He said the despotic rulers told their people that "don't ask freedom and democracy because we are fighting against Israel." He said Arab rulers said to each other that chaos will sweep the region if they leave power and turned to the West and said Islamic radicals will come to power once they leave.

Turkish foreign minister said a look at a model in Turkey with respect to developments in past 7-8 years will prove that these arguments are null. "Democracy didn't bring Turkey chaos. Democratic Turkey was able to raise its voice against Israel more than autocratic Egypt or Syria," Davutoğlu said.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in a daily briefing on Thursday that the US administration and Turkey remained in close consultation throughout the process, and that Turkey's become an increasingly vocal opponent to what's going on in Syria and an increasingly powerful voice among the international community in calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence and to allow for a democratic transition to take place.

"As for possible steps that Turkey may take to increase pressure on Assad, we would certainly welcome those kinds of steps, but it's really for them to clarify what those might be," Toner told reporters.

He said the US would welcome any steps that that tighten economic noose around Assad's regime, adding that any steps that increase pressure on Syrian regime are constructive to what the American goal is.
Iran should behave responsibly in nuclear standoff

Davutoğlu said Iran is an important country and one of the most significant powers in the region, adding that dynamics of the Arab Spring and Iran are different. "We hope these [democratic] values will reach to Iran, too. But this is their choice," he added.

Speaking about nuclear standoff between Iran and the Western nations, Davutoğlu said Turkey is against nuclear weapons in the region. "We want a Middle East that is free of nuclear weapons. There is already enough tensions in the region. We believe Iran will behave responsibly," he said.