Turkey has declared that a peace plan by UN envoy Kofi Annan is the “last chance” for the embattled Syrian regime and that it will face “strong measures” from the international community if it fails to implement the deal.
Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu did not specify what those measures might be, saying it was the responsibility of the UN Security Council to address the matter.
However, Russia and China have blocked action at the United Nations against Syrian president Bashar Assad, and Turkey and its allies are frustrated over the lack of international consensus on the Syrian crackdown.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar want to arm Syrian rebels, but Turkey and the United States have so far resisted the idea amid doubts over the composition of scattered opposition forces and fears that an influx of weapons into Syria could escalate the conflict.
Turkey, which shares a long border with Syria, is making contingency plans for a buffer zone in Syria if refugee flows become overwhelming.
Mr Davutoglu said there was a danger that Syria might try to use Mr Annan’s plan as a way to buy time, promising to stop its attacks on the opposition, which includes rebel groups, but actually continuing with repression even though it agreed to the envoy’s proposals.
“We support this initiative. At the same time, we know from the previous experiences that if the regime perceives that there is a new time being given to them because of this initiative, they continue to oppress more and to do more killing,” he said.
Mr Annan’s plan calls for an immediate, two-hour halt in fighting everyday to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations. The plan also outlines a complete cease-fire, but that will take more time because Syria must first move troops and equipment out of cities and towns. But clashes and protests broke out across many parts of Syria in a sign of how hard it will be for the plan to take hold.
Mr Davutoglu, whose government has said Mr Assad should resign, described Mr Annan’s plan as the beginning of a process. The six-point deal also calls for an inclusive, Syrian-led political process to address the concerns of citizens.
“That’s the minimum – what the regime must do and must do urgently without any delay,” he said. “If that delay continues and people are being killed every day, more and more casualties being in the news, of course the hope for the Annan plan will be lost.”