by our Arab Affairs correspondent
TENS of thousands of Turks have taken to the streets of Istanbul and Ankara to protest against their government’s provocations which have taken Turkey to the brink of war with Syria. And while the Turkish army continues to shell Syrian positions across the border the Syrian government has again called on Turkey to stop helping the rebels who use Turkey as a safe haven for their terrorist attacks.
Anti-war protests are spreading across Turkey following border clashes near Aleppo which have continued all week. The Islamist Turkish government, which openly supports the Syrian rebels, claims it is responding to Syrian army shelling that killed five Turks in the town of Akcakale last week. But local Turks blame their own government for allowing the town to be used as an infiltration route by the Nato-backed Syrian rebels and the Damascus media claim that the incident was a provocation by the rebels themselves to provide a pretext for open Turkish military support for the “Free Syrian Army”.
Turkish demonstrators, many carrying “No to War!” and “Hands off Syria” banners, are reflecting a growing fear throughout the country that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is playing with fire. The protests have been backed by the communists and the social democratic Republican People’s Party whose virtual dominance of Turkish political life was ended when the AKP won the 2002 elections on a Muslim Brotherhood platform. Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, the leader of the opposition in the Turkish parliament, said he was against the shedding of Turkish soldiers’ blood in Arabian deserts and he called Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu an “idiot” for pursuing a policy that was isolating Turkey.
Kiliçdaroglu said that Turkey could only count on the support of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government and Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood that controls the Gaza Strip, while Iran, Russia, China, Brazil and India oppose Turkey’s foreign policy on Syria.
“How can we describe the policy that put Turkey into this situation? Is this ‘strategic depth,’ or strategic blindness? The process that resulted in Turkey’s becoming part of such a meaningless balance comes from a foreign minister whose incompetence is known by the entire world. You don’t need deep knowledge to know that. You have to be a real idiot to do that,” Kiliçdaroglu said.
Though the AKP steamrollered a motion through the Turkish parliament authorising “necessary military action” across the border a survey by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet (Liberty) concluded that 60 per cent of the public were opposed the parliamentary bill.
Meanwhile, in Damascus, progressive forces in the Syrian parliament have called for national unity in the face of the international conspiracy targeting their country. The National Progressive Front, which holds the majority in the newly elected People’s Assembly, is a ten party coalition that is led by the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath) and includes Syria’s two major communist parties.
During the two day conference this week Biskdash Ammar, general secretary of the Syrian Communist Party, emphasised the determination of the parties and national forces to defend the country against the attacks of imperialism, zionism and reactionary Middle East regimes and the leader of the Nasserist Arab Socialist Union, Safwan Kudsi, said that Syria faces a plot organised by regional and international enemies.
The conference stated that the Syrian Arab Army was the country’s shield in the face of any attack. They also agreed that fighting terrorism was the duty of all Syrians and stressed that the security of public institutions should be preserved.
National reconciliation and dialogue are the only means for solving Syria’s unrest the conference concluded in a final statement that established a coordination committee to implement the proposals discussed and agreed at the forum.