GENEVA II / Turkey: Transitional gov’t should leave out those with ‘bloody hands’

23 May 2013 /TODAYSZAMAN.COM, İSTANBUL– A transitional government hoped to emerge after international talks on the fate of Syria next month should exclude those who have blood on their hands, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Wednesday.

Davutoğlu, speaking before his departure for Amman, Jordan, to attend a meeting of the Friends of Syria group, said the process that will lead up to the establishment of a transition government will be detailed in the course of negotiations among parties involved.

The 11-nation “core group” of the Friends of Syria, a gathering of Turkey, the West and Arab countries that support the Syrian opposition, met in Amman ahead of next month’s conference that is backed by the United States and Russia. The conference, dubbed Geneva II in reference to a similar conference held last year in Geneva, is hoped to end in an agreement on the establishment of a transitional government in Syria to end the country’s vicious civil war. Representatives from both the Syrian regime and the opposition are expected to attend the conference.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was attending the Friends of Syria talks in Amman on Wednesday, was due to discuss current planning for the Geneva II conference with Davutoğlu and other participants. In addition to Turkey, the US and the host country, Jordan, officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Britain, France, Germany and Italy were attending the Friends of Syria meeting in Amman.

The question of who will be in delegations of the regime and the opposition is one of the most difficult problems the participants of the upcoming Geneva talks are trying to solve. The Syrian opposition is due to meet in İstanbul on Thursday to announce its stance, while the Arab League’s Syria committee is also due to meet in Cairo at the request of Qatar.  “There are many problems in the preparation for this conference, the first of which is the formation of the delegations of the regime and the opposition,” the United Nations-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said. “The Geneva II conference is a great opportunity, and we hope that the brothers in Syria and the regional and international parties will cooperate to make it succeed.”

Turkey, a staunch supporter of the Syrian opposition, has previously balked at the idea of new talks on trying to end the Syrian crisis, fearing that they will benefit Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Ankara says must leave power. In remarks before a visit to the United States last week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even called the preparations for the Geneva II conference an “exercise in futility.”

But the government seems to have softened its position since then, with Erdoğan later expressing support for efforts for a negotiated settlement. Davutoğlu, for his part, said on Wednesday that Turkey “has always maintained diplomatic flexibility.”

“Those who have no blood in their hands could be a part of the process to protect the state apparatus and prevent chaos,” he said.

Davutoğlu said the main goal was to put an immediate end to “oppression in Syria and the suffering of the Syrian people.” The success of a transitional government, he said, can be measured by whether or not it would give hope to the refugees living in Turkey and other countries to go back to their country in anticipation of peace.  Speaking before the Friends of Syria gathering in Amman, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday that Britain would urge international powers to set a date in the next few days for the Geneva II conference. “It is important that it takes place as quickly as possible because people are dying and more and more people are driven from their homes. The risk to regional stability grow every day so this is something that cannot be debated endlessly,” Hague said.