|Bereaved mother of Ali Shaaban (al-akhbar.com/Haytham Musawi)|
Syria-watchers have their eyes trained on Turkey now that Kofi Annan’s mission is twitching in its final death throes.
And Turkish political analyst Abdullah Bozkurt expects Ankara to eventually invoke the 1998 Adana Agreement to justify a military intervention in Syria.
This is after Damascus spurned Annan’s April 10 ceasefire deadline by escalating, instead of abating, its violent crackdown on restive population centers and by firing across its borders overnight, killing TV cameraman Ali Shaaban in Lebanon and wounding Syrian refugees in Turkey.
It was the first time Syrian fire from across the border had hurt people on Turkish soil.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government would take its own “steps” against Syria if it failed to abide by the April 10 deadline, including measures “we don't want to think about.”
Erdogan's office said the prime minister would pay an official visit to Saudi Arabia later this week to confer on Syria with King Abdullah.
“Turkey... supports illegal Syrian militant groups, supplies them with weapons... and lets them illegally cross into Syria,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said at a press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow. “How can we (fulfill the plan) if there are still illegal arm deliveries and moving of militants from Turkey?”
Muallem said Turkey, in violation of the Annan plan, harbors armed gangs who attack Syrian troops and allows them to smuggle weapons across border, calling its northern neighbor a “part of the problem.”
Turkey has taken in some 4,000 Syrians since last Thursday, pushing up the number of refugees on its soil to over 25,000.
U.S. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, who met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul Monday in Istanbul, might visit the Syrian refugee camps and monitor the situation on the Turkish-Syrian border
Several scenarios are being floated by the Turkish press, including the setting up of a buffer zone along the 900-kilometer border to protect the large numbers of refugees.
Turkish analyst Abdullah Bozkurt, of Today’s Zaman, believes Ankara is inching toward military intervention in Syria.
Bozkurt says Ankara has been preparing for “the inevitability of sending troops into Syria to establish a humanitarian corridor. The corridor would be used to reach cities and towns under siege and possibly create a safe buffer zone for internally displaced persons (IDPs).” The Turkish Red Crescent (Kizilay) said last week it was getting ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria should Turkey or the international community call for a “humanitarian aid corridor” to be carved inside Syrian territory.
In the event Russia and China continue to block UN-mandated action against Syria, Bozkurt writes, “Ankara will probably invoke the 1998 Adana Agreement with Syria to justify the military intervention” and invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which says that an attack on any member shall be considered to be an attack on all. “Since the Assad regime allows the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its affiliates to launch attacks on Turkish soil and harbors some 1,500 to 2,000 hardcore PKK militants in areas close to the Turkish border, Turkey can very well utilize the NATO security cover for assistance.”
Bozkurt recalls that the governments of Turkey and Syria signed the Adana Agreement on October 20, 1998. In it, Damascus not only agreed to recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization but also pledged to cease all aid to the PKK and to deport its leader Abdullah Ocalan.
The Adana Agreement was complemented by the security agreements of 10 September 2001, 23 December 2009 and 21 December 2010. Bozkurt says the latter, ratified by the Turkish parliament on 6 April 2011, “gives both parties the right to conduct joint operations in each other's territory. If Turkey officially recognized the Syrian National Council (SNC) as sole legitimate representative of Syria, which is likely to happen in the upcoming Paris meeting of the Friends of Syria if Assad failed to follow through on the Annan plan, it could very well secure SNC consent to launch joint operations with the Free Syrian Army against Assad forces.”
Bozkurt says Ankara “clearly prefers the multilateral approach for the time being. But when push comes to shove, Turkey will not hesitate to act alone, as it did in 1998 in Syria or in 1975 in Cyprus. Watch out for the signal that will indicate that Turkey is ready to act: When the government decides to seek a mandate from the Turkish Parliament for troop deployment in a foreign country, as it must according to the Constitution, it would mean the real warning shot for military incursion into Syria has already been fired.”