US, Turkey Syria working group gathers

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 22.8.2012

The first meeting of the working group of Turkish and U.S. delegations on the Syrian crisis will gather in Ankara on Thursday. Turkey and the United States agreed to a closer cooperation on Syria when Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Istanbul on Aug. 11. and decided to establish the mechanism.

Diplomats, military officials and intelligence members will participate in the meeting, which will be held in the Foreign Ministry, diplomatic sources said. “The U.S. and Turkey will sit down together to share an operational picture, to talk about the effectiveness of what we’re doing now, and about what more we can do,” U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Aug. 20. “This was not a bricks-and-mortar center. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. This is a bilateral conversation across the interagency,” Nuland said. In her visit with Davutoğlu, Clinton explained that the U.S. will broaden contacts with the Syrian opposition currently trying to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and work more with Turkey for “operational planning” of the Syrian conflict.

Clinton pledged more military and intelligence cooperation with Ankara. “We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning,” Clinton said as she met with Syrian opposition figures in Turkey and with top Turkish officials.

Çevik appointed to UN

Ambassador Elizabeth Jones will head the U.S. delegation, while a senior Foreign Ministry official will lead the Turkish delegation. In the case of a huge wave of refugee migration, Turkey would need to establish a mechanism within Syria in order to ensure humanitarian protection, Davutoğlu said on Aug. 11 after his meeting with Clinton. He hinted at the possibility of setting up a so-called “safe zone” inside Syria and recently stated that Turkey could not host more than 100,000 refugees.

Meanwhile, one of the key figures in shaping Turkey’s foreign policy towards Syria and the Middle East, Deputy Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Halit Çevik is set to be Turkey’s new representative in the United Nations. Ambassador Çevik was been appointed in 2009 as deputy undersecretary responsible for general political relations and Middle Eastern affairs was one of the key areas of the responsibility for Çevik, who worked as the Turkish ambassador to Damascus between 2004 and 2009. He is scheduled to begin his tenure in October and will replace Ertuğrul Apakan.