Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Syria
The tragedy in Syria necessitates Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to leave aside these disagreements and deal with this issue together.
The recent visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Saudi Arabia and rather cordial meetings with the Turkish delegation and Saudi officials can open a new page in bilateral relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Especially the positive messages from the two leaders, Erdoğan and King Salman, with the potential support of Qatar can also influence regional politics, especially the crisis in Syria. The situation in the Middle East, especially the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, demonstrated that regional actors need to play a more coordinated and pro-active role in the resolution of conflicts. Although some of the issues in the Middle East necessitate an international engagement and enterprise, the regional contributions for the solution of regional problems can become very instrumental in the achievement of long-term security and stability in the Middle East. This need for a regional collective enterprise by regional countries is to achieve the same goal in Syria more than anywhere else in the region. For the last four years the negligence of the Western world concerning the increasingly worsening humanitarian situation on the ground and the lack of meaningful support for opposition groups has demonstrated that there is a very serious need for and a vacuum of coordinated action by the regional actors to pursue a free, independent and stable Syria.
In regard to the conflict in Syria the main principles have already been set forth. Despite some reports that the U.S. is increasingly more inclined to accept a solution with Syrian President Bashar Assad after the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), there was no follow up of the statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in which he avoided asking Assad to step down. Now the U.S. and the Western world might understand in order to degrade and destroy ISIS, the real partners have to be strong regional actors that can appeal to the people in the region. The position of the main opposition groups in Syria also did not change with regard to the future of Syria and Assad. Neither a meeting in Moscow nor a conference in a regional capital can easily change the position of the opposition groups. So far, none of the major opposition groups are expressing a willingness to agree to a future Syria with Assad as its president. Instead, these groups are repeatedly expressing that it would be unacceptable to pressure the Syrian people, who sacrificed their lives and families in order to fight the regime, for a solution that includes the survival and/or leadership of the Assad regime.
Under these circumstances it falls to the regional actors that endorse the same goal as the Syrian opposition to bring together their efforts and to strategize a way to end the rule of those who have “blood on their hand” and build a safe and secure Syria. This needs to be a long-lasting partnership since the end of the Assad regime will be only the first step toward a solution of social, economic, political and infrastructure problems in Syria. All of these three countries have different capabilities and have outreach with different groups and actors on the ground. Their collective action can also help them to not waste their resources and channel them for reaching effective and meaningful goals.
It is true that these actors do not agree on every issue in the region. It is not a secret that there are serious disagreements between these actors regarding the conflict in Gaza and about the situation in Egypt. However, the tragedy in Syria necessitates these actors to leave aside these disagreements and deal with this issue together. The transition in leadership in Saudi Arabia provides an important opportunity in this realm. With the new king and power configuration in the country and with increasing dialogue among these three countries, they can establish a new and strong bloc in Syria. This partnership and cooperation can provide a more effective channel of assistance to the Syrian opposition and increase the influence and clout of this bloc in the international sphere in regard to the Syrian war. All of these three countries have reached a point of understanding that without a solution in Syria it would be quite difficult for them to pursue their individual foreign policy goals and deal with the threats to their own national security.
This article was originally published in Daily Sabah on March 7, 2015.