Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech, describes the UN Security Council's stance on strife in neighbouring Syria as "negligence."
By Alakbar Raufoglu for Southeast European Times -- 17/10/12
Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is recalling Balkan violence in the 1990s in an attempt to draw international attention to the conflict on Turkey’s border with Syria. [Reuters]
Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is invoking memories of Balkan hostilities in the 1990s in his appeals to the international community in hopes of ending bloodshed in neighbouring Syria and bringing peace to the 910-kilometre border that separates the two former allies.
Erdogan, who has become one of the strongest critics of Syria President Bashar al-Assad, told a conference in Istanbul on Saturday (October 13th) that the UN Security Council "was repeating mistakes that led to the massacres in Bosnia in the 1990s."
"How sad is that the UN is as helpless today as it was 20 years ago when it watched the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in the Balkans, Bosnia and Srebrenica," Erdogan told the conference, which included Nabil Elaraby, secretary general of the Arab League.
Oytun Orhan, Syrian analyst at the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, said Turkey is now trying "to use all possible languages to force its international allies to take stronger action to address security challenge on its doorstep."
"There are two main audiences that the PM [Erdogan] probably targeted to address and shake, by reminding [of] the Bosnian tragedy: domestic [Turkish] and Western communities," he told SETimes. "The more Syrian uprising lasts, the more criticism Erdogan government receives from the domestic front, while it has so far failed persuading the western allies to take sharp steps against al-Assad."
Veteran diplomat Omer Engin Lutem, who held several positions at the Turkish Foreign Ministry responsible for Balkan and UN diplomacies in the 1980s, believes that the international community's reactions on Srebrenica massacre "pretty much explains the current situation around Syria."
"Everyone plays the word game at the UN; no one wants to talk about the real situation, while Turkey is the only country now that suffers directly from all these in its border," Lutem told SETimes. "It's all about the human tragedy, and the UN mechanism works very slow."
In addition to worries about more violence spilling over the border, Turkey officials also are contending with a growing refugee situation. About 100,000 Syrian refugees are in Turkey and the number is expected to more than double by year's end, the UN said.
The Srebrenica massacre in July 1995 is considered the worst atrocity committed on European soil since World War II. Peacekeepers with the UN Protection Force abandoned what had been designated a UN safe haven, allowing forces led by Ratko Mladic to slaughter 8,000 Muslims, most of them male.
In a visit to Srebrenica in July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also compared Srebrenica to Syria. "The UN has not fulfilled its responsibility [by failing] to prevent the Srebrenica genocide," he said then. "It can be compared with today's situation in Syria, where the international community is on the test again."
Erdogan, in Istanbul, said Srebrenica happened because the international community was unprepared "in dealing with the issues of the post-Cold War era. How can the injustice and weakness displayed in the Syrian issue be explained today?" he said.
"If we wait for one or two of the [UN Security Council's] permanent members ... then the future of Syria will be in danger," Erdogan said. Russia's and China's veto of a UN resolution condemning violence gave the Assad regime "a license to kill," he added.
Turkey has long led calls for intervention in Syria, including no-fly zones enforced by foreign aircraft to stop deadly air raids by Assad's forces. Ankara is increasingly entangled after intercepting a Syrian airliner carrying what it said were Russian-made munitions for the Syrian army, infuriating officials in Moscow and Damascus.
On Monday, Turkey ordered an Armenian plane flying to Syria to land and searched its cargo. The plane was allowed to continue to Aleppo after the search in Erzurum airport confirmed it was carrying humanitarian aid.
Hajrudin Somun, former Bosnia and Herzegovina ambassador to Turkey, said it is possible to connect the approach of the UN and the international community toward the Syrian situation today and the Bosnian one in 1990s, but not compare the situation within those two countries in war and crisis times.
"There was barbarism in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, of course, but it was not caused by sectarian divisions, but the aggressive policy of Slobodan Milosevic, whose aim was to create a Greater Serbia by exercising violence, genocide and ethnic cleansing against the non-Serb population," Somun, currently a lecturer of the history of diplomacy at Philip Noel-Baker International University in Sarajevo, told SETimes. "In the Balkans there were wars for territories. …Such reckless allusions countenance those Serb nationalists who consider that all sides were equal and responsible in the 1990s Balkan wars."
In the meantime, he added, "I can accept comparing today's Syria and the Yugoslavia of the past only if the observation is focusing on the external actors and their struggle for regional influence; from the angle of indecisive drawing out of the UN SC resolutions, imposing ineffective sanctions and pro et contra arguments on foreign military intervention."