Foreign powers divided over Syria


Turkey on Tuesday raised the option of military intervention in neighbouring Syria while Russia rejected even an arms embargo as Damascus tries to stifle anti-government protests. Highlighting divisions among foreign powers on how to deal with the bloodshed in Syria, Turkey’s foreign minister said Ankara was ready for “any scenario”. Russia’s foreign minister for his part said it was time to stop issuing ultimatums to Damascus. Syria is facing increased economic sanctions and condemnation from many governments over what the United Nations calls “gross human rights violations” but President Bashar al-Assad shows no sign of buckling under pressure to end his military crackdown on protesters calling for his overthrow. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested military force remained an option, albeit apparently a remote one, if Assad did not heed calls to halt the violence. “If the oppression continues, Turkey is ready for any scenario. We hope that a military intervention will never be necessary.
The Syrian regime has to find a way of making peace with its own people,” he said. While NATO bombing of Libya was crucial in helping rebels to oust Muammar Gaddafi, Western countries are more cautious about Syria, which lies at the heart of Middle East conflicts, borders Israel and Lebanon and maintains close ties with Iran. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected calls at the United Nations for an arms embargo against Syria, saying that a similar move against Libya had proved one-sided, helping rebels to topple Gaddafi in August. “We know how that worked in Libya when the arms embargo only applied to the Libyan army. The opposition received weapons, and countries like France and Qatar publicly spoke about it without shame,” he told a news conference. Alluding to Western powers and the Arab League, Lavrov said it was time to “stop using ultimatums” to pressure Damascus and repeated Russia’s calls for dialogue between the government and its foes, whom Moscow says share blame for the bloodshed. “For the most part, armed groups are provoking the authorities. To expect the authorities to close their eyes to this is not right,” Lavrov said.
BUFFER ZONE: Davutoglu said the possible scenarios included setting up a buffer zone to contain any mass influx of Syrian refugees. “If tens, hundreds of thousands of people start advancing towards the Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey borders, not only Turkey but the international community may be required to take some steps such as buffer zone. We don’t want that to happen but we must consider and work on that scenario,” he said.