Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
May 30 2013


The Recep Tayyip Erdogan government is trying to present the European
Union's lifting of its arms embargo on Syria as a success for its
diplomacy. The government-controlled Anatolia news agency (AA)
was quoted by daily Hurriyet on Wednesday as claiming that Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu played an important role in this decision
during the meeting he had with EU ministers in Brussels on Monday.

But, as the European press is indicating, the embargo was lifted not on
the basis of a consensus decision, but because there was no consensus
on extending it. So if Davutoglu was as "influential" as AA claims,
he had the easiest of tasks. At any rate, contrary to the impression
created by some in the pro-government media, this "success" of Ankara's
does not mean the EU will be supplying arms to the Syrian opposition.

What it means is that EU members who opposed the extension of the
embargo are free to do so if they want to. Judging by press reports
from Paris and London, however, France and Britain, who lobbied for
the lifting of the embargo, should not be expected to open supply
lines for the required sophisticated weapons any time soon.

If the Syrian opposition is relying on these countries, it is most
probably going to be disappointed again. If the Erdogan government
expects the game in Syria to change now as a result of what happened
in Brussels on Monday, it too is headed for more disappointment.

It was obvious from the start that any suggestion of weapons to the
Syrian opposition would be immediately countered by Russia. That
is exactly what happened on Tuesday when Moscow accused "hotheads"
in the West of planning to intervene in Syria, and announced that it
would deliver advanced missile system to the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Israel immediately jumped in the fray and, hollow as its warnings to
Russia may sound, this will only complicate matters for Europe and
the U.S., who now have to consider the prospect of an arms race,
as well as a number of proxy wars in the region between different
actors pushing different agendas.

Mention these simple facts in Turkey and supporters of the Erdogan
government immediately attack you as a sympathizer of "al-Assad
the killer." Turkey is a country were impressions rather than facts
have always been the order of the day, but this will not change the
situation in Syria.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirta~_ put it
well over the weekend to a group of journalists in Ankara:

"Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his bureaucracy cannot read
Syria. The minister says, 'I know Aleppo and Damascus street by
street.' He doesn't. He doesn't know the feelings of the Kurd,
the Arab, or the Armenian. He doesn't know the streets of Hakkari
or Damascus."

Ankara has consistently misjudged the Syria crisis. The Erdogan
government is paying lip service to the notion that the Geneva II
conference that Washington and Moscow are trying to broker now will
be crucial. But it is hard to say they are keen about this conference
which the al-Assad regime has said it will attend.

Ankara from the start aimed for a new Syria run predominantly by Sunnis
of the Islamic Brotherhood bent who are also friendly to Turkey. But,
as Demirta~_ said, it failed to read Syria, and is refusing to
understand the regional implications of pouring more fuel on the
Syrian fire by promoting the arming of the opposition.

The EU, which is in total disarray again over a crucial international
crisis, would have had more leverage over Russia in relation to
Syria had it unanimously upheld its arms embargo, and pushed for the
diplomatic and political line that Moscow is promoting.

If Davutoglu was as influential as claimed in convincing the EU to lift
its arms embargo, then it is questionable whether he did a service
to Turkey and the region, or merely contributed to the dangerous
inflammation of a crisis that cannot be contained. It is therefore
time for Turkey to get real if it really wants the bloodshed in Syria
to end soon.