Turkish foreign minister to meet Syria opposition

AFP , Sunday 26 Feb 2012

A second 'Friends of Syria' meetings is expected to take place in Turkey next month; Minister to consider curbing diplomatic ties with Damascus but aims to keep embassy open

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will meet with the Syrian opposition ahead of the second "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul next month, media reported on Sunday. The first "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunisia last Friday saw calls for an immediate end to violence and for new sanctions against the Damascus regime.

"I will meet with the Syrian National Council (SNC) on Tuesday prior to the Istanbul conference," Davutoglu was quoted as saying by the daily Hurriyet. The SNC maintains an office in Istanbul and France has called the group the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition.

Turkey, which has a 910-kilometre (560-mile) border with Syria, has been at the forefront of international criticism of President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on dissent and has become a haven for opposition activists.

"For us, the Middle East is a place where all religions and sects should live together," said Davutoglu. "We are exerting efforts for the SNC to embrace people from every religion and sect including Kurds, Alawites, Nusayris and Christians," he added.

Davutoglu said Turkey would consider curbing its diplomatic ties with Syria but explained Ankara wants to keep its Damascus embassy open, as it did during the uprisings in Libya and Iraq.
Turkish media reported that the third "Friends of Syria" meeting would be held in France.

Davutoglu said he hoped new French legislation outlawing denial of of the Armenian genocide would not block him from traveling to the meeting. "I hope the relations will be restored by then," he said.

After passing the French senate and the lower house, the controversial bill was put on hold after opponents demanded it be reviewed by the France's Constitutional Council. Turkey has already halted political and military cooperation with France over the bill and has threatened to cut off economic and cultural ties, but has applauded the impending Constitutional Council review.

Short link: