29/06/2012

Syria: will Turkish-Syrian crisis be the turning point?

Since the outbreak of the “Arab Spring”, the UN estimates that the victims’ number of the conflict in Syria is more than 10 000 dead. China, U.S., U.K. and France are trying to avoid this number to increase by proposing the establishment of a transitional government. However, Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, doesn’t intend to leave his power and, in the meantime, he advised the Syrian people that their Nation is living in a real war on all fronts. Indeed, beyond the civil war, the situation in Syria may change following the destruction, on last 21 June, by Syrian forces of a Turkish F-4 Phantom II, which has violated Syrian airspace. The Turkish reaction, as a warning after this event, was to deploy soldiers and army vehicles on the border areas between the two States.

Meanwhile, NATO and the EU are limited to condemn strongly the destruction of military aircraft, judging it as an “unacceptable” act. The Secretary General of NATO, Anders F. Rasmussen, and High Representative of EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, expressed their support for Turkey, however asking it to adopt a moderate reaction. Syrian government has alerted the international community without hesitations, noting that airspace, territory and waters of Syria are “sacred” for its army, and that airspace, territory and waters of Turkey are the same for Turkish army. In addition, it is worth noting that the Turkish military aircraft had violated clearly Syrian airspace. Although there was an immediate and violent reaction to this violation, Syria initially apologized for the incident and is committed to “good relations” with the Turkish government, which accused Syria to have committed a hostile act, arguing that military aircraft had violated Syrian airspace briefly and inadvertently.

It should be noted that Turkey was an ally of Syria, but after the outbreak of the “Arab Spring”, it has become more and more critical of the Syrian government. Especially after having destroyed the F-4 Phantom II, the relations between the two States are even more strained. The reaction taken by the Turkish government to reply at any threat on the Syrian border could change the situation in the current Syrian crisis. Indeed, many Free Syrian Army rebels have taken refuge in the border regions of Turkey, with the consent of the latter, in the places where Turkish soldiers and military vehicles were deployed recently: according to news agencies in Turkey, in the territories of Sanliurfa and Hatay, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft artillery and military ambulances have been deployed along the border. For its part, Syria has deployed 170 tanks north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey.

Meanwhile, the “faithful” ally of Syria, Russia, is considering the proposal of the special envoy of the UN and the Arab League, Kofi Annan, which will be discussed tomorrow, June 30, by the UN Action Group in Syria: the proposal seeks to create a mixed government in Syria, formed by members of the current executive and other ranks of the opposition. However, the Russian government, through its Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that the future of Syria must necessarily be ensured in the State by a “dialogue” between representatives of the Syrian civil society.

 

GIACOMO MORABITO

University of Messina