Turkish alarm, bordering on anger, is humanitarian and strategic in nature. A summer cross-border surge of Syrian refugees has caused big headaches for Ankara. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, pictured right, is said to be furious that his personal pleas to Assad to stop butchering his people and adopt substantive reforms have been ignored. Erdogan has publicly condemned the regime’s “savagery”.
But Turkey is also worried by the impact of the unrest on its efforts to suppress Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) fighters active in the south-east of the country, many of whom are Syrian-born or based in Syria. A report by the National Intelligence Organisation (NIT), obtained by Today’s Zaman newspaper, says about 1,500 PKK fighters in the Kandil mountains region, straddling Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, are of Syrian origin…
As Assad has grown more isolated, his alliance with Tehran has gained greater importance – and become more worrying for Turkey, whose attempts to act as a go-between with Iran and western countries, for example on the nuclear issue, have irritated both sides and achieved no appreciable progress.
Against this backdrop, Davutoglu’s Damascus visit has taken on the appearance of a showdown. “We have been very patient until now, waiting to see … whether they will listen to what we have been saying … But our patience is running out now,” Erdogan said at the weekend.