Syrian opposition ready for bigger meeting after Turkish election

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Syrian opposition is planning another meeting in Turkey to follow its conference in Antalya, hoping to receive more open support from Ankara after the June 12 general elections.

“Until the elections we don’t want to put the Turkish government in a tough position,” Khaled Khoja, a Turkish-based member of the Damascus Declaration committee, a Syrian opposition group, told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend.

“We haven’t fixed the schedule of the next meeting yet, but we will announce it within a few weeks as we wait for the elections in Turkey to end, so that the Turkish government’s stance could be clearer,” he added.

Members of the Syrian opposition met in Antalya, a Turkish Mediterranean city, last week and in Brussels over the weekend. Organizers hope their next conference in Turkey will be a larger one, representing the opposition within Syria in addition to exiled dissidents, and that Ankara will support their fight against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian opposition has not yet been able to get the support it expected from the Turkish government, but its members believe this is because of the upcoming election in Turkey.

“Turkey is preparing for elections. That’s why we understand the position of the Turkish government, but we hope this attitude will be changing after the elections,” said Khoja.

The Turkish government has thus far refrained from vocal criticism of Syrian President Al-Assad, who is being held responsible for the killing of protesters during the ongoing uprising in his country. Turkey has instead pressed the Syrian leadership for more reforms. During private conversations, however, Ankara has been telling Assad, “Make reforms, otherwise we’ll support the reformists,” Turkish diplomatic sources told the Daily News.

PM pledges more focus on Syria after polls

In a televised interview over the weekend, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his government would place much focus on the developments in the Middle East and North Africa after the elections.

“We cannot repeat our previous performance during the election time. I am actually quite interested in Syria at this time … I talked on the phone with Mr. Bashar al-Assad,” he said.

The Syrian president is misinforming the Turkish government, according to the Syrian opposition.

“Al-Assad is sending some messages to satisfy the Turkish government that he is going on with new reforms but we don’t believe it at all. This is just to satisfy the public opinion in Turkey and in the international community,” Khoja said.

Asked if they had any contacts within the Turkish government, he said: “At the low level we have some contacts but at the high level, no.”

The planned meeting after the Turkish elections will be more important than the Antalya meeting “because a lot of committees from Syria will gather here,” Khoja said.

“Now they are preparing in Syria to send representatives, some of whom are from Damascus. This will represent the real movement in Syria,” he added. “The opposition outside Syria can only support the movement inside Syria but since the movement in Syria will represent itself at that upcoming meeting, it will be more important.”

Khoja said the group chose Turkey as a venue for its meetings “because Turkey is in the middle of the active countries and it’s so easy to gather here without any visas.” Turkey and Syria abolished visa requirements for travel in 2009.

4 Syrians hospitalized in Turkey

Four Syrians who were wounded in the government’s crackdown on anti-regime protesters in Syria were brought to Turkey on Saturday, the Anatolia news agency reported. Two families came to the Syrian-Turkish border and asked for help from Turkish authorities, who called an ambulance and took the four injured Syrians to a hospital.

The Turkish Red Crescent has increased the number of tents set up in the southern province of Hatay anticipating a further influx of people from Syria. An additional 41 Syrians crossed into Turkey through Hatay’s Altinozu town.

Source: Hürriyet.

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