Turkey warns Assad to not misread failed resolution at the UN
"The rejection of this resolution must never constitute a pretext for the Syrian administration to add new mistakes to the existing ones," a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. The resolution was co-sponsored by Turkey along with 16 other countries, mostly Arab League members. Turkey and its Western and Arab allies fear that the double-veto would embolden the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking to a group of reporters on the sidelines of the 48th Munich Security Conference in Germany over the weekend, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stated that Turkey will not sit idly by in the face of killings perpetrated against civilian protestors in its southern neighbor. He did not specify, however, what steps Ankara is considering against Syria at this juncture.
Delivering a speech at conference, Davutoğlu said Turkey, as a neighboring country, had a moral responsibility for the protection of Syrian people. If needed, Turkey could host Syrian people wanting to escape the violence, he said, adding that this could be a powerful signal to the Assad administration. He dismissed claims that Turkey held talks under a NATO banner for a military intervention in Syria as baseless. Commenting on Iran, Davutoğlu said that a military intervention in Iran would be disaster for the region and urged negotiations instead.
The Foreign Ministry statement said it was disappointing to see that Russia and China vetoed the UN resolution that backed an Arab plan calling on President Assad to quit. "It disappoints us even further that this point has been reached despite all the conciliatory efforts following the failed process last October which was also due to yet another two votes against. It is extremely difficult to comprehend why this constructive resolution, which was co-sponsored also by Turkey and contained no more than the general support to the efforts of the Arab League, has been rejected," the statement read.
The high-level diplomatic setback came after world leaders and Syrian opposition activists accused Assad's forces of a massacre in a sustained shelling of Homs, the bloodiest episode in the 11 months since the start of the upheaval in the pivotal Arab country. Russia complained that the draft resolution was an improper and biased attempt at "regime change" in Syria, which is Moscow's sole major Middle East ally, an important buyer of Russian arms and host to a Russian naval base.
Turkey warned the veto-wielding powers, especially Russia and China that blocked the resolution, saying that the veto power of the permanent members of the UN Security Council also comes with serious responsibility. "Despite the primary responsibility of the UN Security Council, which is to protect international peace and security, we deplore the fact that it is unable to fulfill this responsibility due to the vetoes in question," Ankara said.
With regards to events in Homs, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice dispensed with the usual diplomatic courtesies and declared she was "disgusted" by the Russian-Chinese veto, adding that "any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands." Shortly before the Security Council voted, US President Barack Obama denounced the "unspeakable assault" on Homs, demanded that Assad leave power immediately and called for UN action against Assad's "relentless brutality." "Any government that brutalizes and massacres its people does not deserve to govern," Obama said.
Turkey also joined the international community in condemning Syria for the bloodshed in Homs that took place on the day that commemorated the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. "The massacre perpetrated last night [Feb. 3] by the Syrian Security Forces with heavy weapons against the people of Homs, claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians and injuring an even greater number of people, including women and children, has aroused great indignation. The shelling by a country's official security forces of its own cities constitutes the most concrete indication that the government of that country has totally lost its legitimacy to rule. We condemn in the strongest possible terms and reprobate this massacre," the Foreign Ministry's statement said.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç slammed Iran on Sunday, saying that if Tehran keeps silent in face of the atrocities committed in Homs, it should take out the word "Islam" from the official name. "We know there is a country called the 'Islamic Republic of Iran.' It is not a republic of a certain sect. Intentionally killing Muslims on such a [Holy] day is not something that can be disregarded," he said in Bursa province. Arınç also claimed that the number of causalities in Homs has reached 500.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ also warned that the Syrian crisis should not be treated as political rivalry among competing global powers. "Countries should view Syria from a humanitarian perspective. If they continue to see it from a political rivalry persective, the Syrian regime will keep killing its own people," he said in The Hague.
Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Manisa deputy Naci Bostancı, who is also deputy chairman of the Human Rights Commission in the Turkish Parliament, told Today's Zaman that the Assad regime continues to misread the demands of its own people as well as calls from international stakeholders. "The regime will see this failed resolution as support for its actions," he warned, adding that the fate of Assad was sealed no matter how hard he tries to cling onto power.
The İstanbul-based Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (UNIW) Secretary-General Necmi Sadıkoğlu has said the killings in Homs turned into a massacre. Representing some 200 NGOs in 50 countries, the UNIW secretary-general said: "Hundreds of innocent Syrians including babies, children and women were slaughtered in Homs. Despite the rightful demands of Syrian people, some regional and global powers continue to lend support to Assad regime."
In Munich, Davutoğlu met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and both talked about the escalating crisis in Syria. Clinton said it had not been possible to work constructively with Russia ahead of the vote, even though military intervention in Syria -- fiercely opposed by Moscow -- had been absolutely ruled out. "I thought that there might be some ways to bridge, even at this last moment, a few of the concerns that the Russians had. I offered to work in a constructive manner to do so. That has not been possible," she told reporters at a Munich conference. Clinton warned that the risk of more bloodshed and civil war in Syria had risen after the collapse of the UN resolution.
Tunisia's prime minister on Sunday said that cutting ties with the Syrian regime is the "least that we can do" in the face of escalating violence, and asserted that Russia and China misused their UN Security Council veto. Hamadi Jebali spoke at an annual gathering of security officials in Germany, where Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman also said that Russia and China bear moral responsibility for killings in Syria and urged governments to expel Syrian ambassadors.
Mohammed Loulichki, the UN ambassador of Morocco, the sole Arab member of the 15-nation council, voiced his "great regret and disappointment" at the veto and said the Arabs had no intention of abandoning their plan.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday that France was consulting with Arab and European countries to create a contact group on Syria to find a solution to its crisis. Sarkozy, speaking after his Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said the twin veto had paralyzed the international community, accused Moscow and Beijing of "encouraging the [Syrian] regime to continue with its cruel policies without an end. France is not giving up," Sarkozy said in a statement, saying France was in touch with Arab and European partners to create a "Friends of the Syrian People Group" that would marshal international support to implement the Arab League plan. Sarkozy did not give further details on the initiative.
Syrian UN envoy Bashar Ja'afari denied that Syrian forces killed hundreds of civilians in Homs, saying that "no sensible person" would launch such an attack the night before the Security Council was set to discuss his country. Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmud accused Syrian rebels of shelling Homs to "to swing the vote" at the Security Council. "The reports on some satellite channels that the Syrian army shelled neighborhoods in Homs are fabricated and unfounded," Mr. Mahmud said in a statement to AFP. The online news media firatnews.com, a mouthpiece for the terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which stages attacks against Turkey, hailed the veto decision of Russian and China and reported on what Mr. Mahmud had said with regard to Homs.
There were reports that the Syrian army had engaged in a gun battle with the opposition forces nearby Turkish border village of Guvecci overlooking Syria. The Cihan News Agency filed a story on Sunday from Hatay province that villagers in Guvecci reported gun fire on Saturday night. A few bullets hit a solar panel on the roof of a house in the village and authorities urged residents to stay indoors.