Syrian regime, ISIL secret partners, says Davutoğlu
An al-Qaeda-linked group that has wreaked havoc in northern Syria and has lately confronted more moderate rebel groups in bitter clashes is secretly cooperating with President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Thursday.

Davutoğlu said the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) emerged only when the Syrian opposition groups gained ground in Syria's north. "There is a partnership between them [ISIL] and the regime," the foreign minister was quoted as saying by state news agency Anadolu in its website.

The foreign minister, responding to questions from Anadolu editors, also slammed radical groups in Syria whose brutality and radical ideology have dampened Western support for the anti-regime opposition. "The wrong methods implemented by radicals have made the regime look like it is the lesser evil," said Davutoğlu.

Turkey is a staunch supporter of the moderate rebels aligned with the Syrian national coalition, the body recognized by countries supporting the opposition as the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people, but they have lost ground in Syria as ISIL, which originally was established in Iraq, and another al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, have gradually become the predominant forces in the anti-regime camp.

But ISIL and other opposition groups, including the Islamic Front coalition of powerful Salafist groups, have been fighting for days in northern Syria. In an audio message on Wednesday, an ISIL spokesman vowed to crush rebel groups fighting it and to target members loyal to the Syrian national coalition.

The clashes have been the bloodiest rebel-on-rebel violence since the civil war in Syria began in the first half of 2011. "Crush them completely and kill the conspiracy in its cradle," said the group's spokesman, known as Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who also told ISIL fighters to "pluck the heads" of any national coalition leaders or rebel groups tied to them.

Davutoğlu blamed the Syrian regime oppression for the rise of ISIL. "Organizations like ISIL come out when there is a marshy ground. The Assad regime's oppression and cruelty led to this marshy ground being formed," he told Anadolu editors.

'Syrian regime, PYD and al-Qaeda pose security risk'

Davutoğlu also called "the elements of the Syrian regime, the Democratic Union Party [PYD -- the main Kurdish group in northern Syria] and of al-Qaeda" as "factors that pose a security risk" for Turkey.

He again dismissed allegations that Turkey is supporting radical groups in Syria, saying there was a "psychological campaign under way against Turkey" to create the impression worldwide that Turkey supports terrorist groups in Syria.

Reports circulating mainly in the foreign media allege that before joining the war in Syria, hundreds of al-Qaeda members, particularly foreign volunteers, have used apartments in Turkey's southeastern cities as safe houses, creating a flow of foreign fighters who are fighting in the war-torn country.

Davutoğlu said that Turkey is on the side of the Syrian nation irrespective of which sect or ethnicity they belong to. "If the Syrian regime had accepted a democratic transition, Turkey would have been walk along with it now," he said.

Conditional welcome to Iran participation in Geneva II

Davutoğlu also welcomed a possible role for Iran in an upcoming international conference on Syria, dubbed Geneva II, but emphasized that Iran should accept the conclusions of Geneva II's predecessor, Geneva I, in 2012.

The conference is expected to be held in Switzerland later this month.

Davutoğlu said that everyone should come to Geneva by accepting a transitional government that will not include those "with blood on their hands." He said that those who are working for the regime who have not been involved in bloody acts should keep their place.

"We find it appropriate that Iran participate in the Geneva II conference," Davutoğlu said, adding, however, that the Tehran government should come to the conference by accepting the "final decisions" of Geneva I, which called for the Syrian government and opposition to form a transitional government "by mutual consent."
The mutual consent phrase is read by Western opponents of Assad as meaning no role for Assad in the future of Syria, while Russia, a sponsor of the plan, disputes that view.

Davutoğlu also said the Syrian opposition, which is yet to announce a decision on whether it will join Geneva II, should attend the conference but warned that it is under pressure from Syrian groups who oppose any participation in Geneva II as long as the Syrians continue to be killed in regime assaults.

Concerns over police response to German protests

Also commenting on the recent protests that broke out over the closure of a left-wing community center in Germany, Davutoğlu said Turkey has been closely following the developments in Hamburg.

"Thank God, Turkish citizens in Hamburg haven't been affected by the events. It is important that freedoms are exercised in Germany, as in all Europe, according to global standards. There are demonstrations in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, where there are also Turkish citizens. We are following the developments with concern," he said.

According to the reports circulating in the international media, Hamburg residents clashed with police in the late December after more than 7,000 took to the streets to protest plans to evict squatters from an old theater building, which is a leftist cultural center. More than 80 officers and an unknown number of demonstrators were injured in the clashes on Saturday.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2014-01-09 20:00:02
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