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The French-Turkish Positions on Syria

Sabria Chowdhury Balland

Syrians living in Turkey write "Freedom" with their blood during a protest against the government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian consulate in Istanbul, Photo: AFP

The eight month long conflict and bloodshed in Syria seems to not have any signs of ceasing. The humanitarian and economic tolls have reached a peak and one can only hope that international pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, unsuccessful to date, can have some sort of positive effects in the future. Two of the countries that have demonstrated very different positions on Syria are Turkey and France.

Turkey has always been greatly involved in the Syrian issue. It shares a border with Syria and thus geographical security reasons come into play. Turkey has currently adopted the policy of supporting the opponents of the Syrian oppressive government. Turkey hopes that should the next regime in power be the Muslim Brotherhood, (which seems to have become the most influential opposition against the al-Assad government), they will adopt an amicable policy towards Turkey. Furthermore, in order to protect its border, Turkey supports a no-fly zone in Northern Syria. The Turkish position is basically a reinstatement of the positions held by the US, EU and the Arab League.

The second country in this equation is France, for whom Syria has always been a gateway to the Middle East. Although France supports al-Assad opponents also, they are not the same opponents supported by Syria. In this case, what would be preferable for France is that the leadership which comes into place after al-Assad not be from the Muslim Brotherhood, meaning without any Sunni references. This is largely based on what is currently occurring in Tunisia.

Needless to say, the Muslim brotherhood is unhappy with France's interference. However, the crux of the issue remains that the split in the opposition paves the way for a continuing unstable Syria after this current regime.

This situation once again brings forth a rivalry between France and Turkey, deepening its existing issues based on France's continual opposition to Turkey's accession into the EU. Further disagreements between the two countries, which do not resolve matters, include issues over Cyprus and Georgia. It has been seen time and again that France and Turkey have antagonised each other through economic and political crises in other countries.

Leader of the exiled Syrian opposition grouping, the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, attends a press conference in Moscow. Photo: AFP

It is obvious that each country will focus on its own benefits from its positions on Syria. However, the situation in Syria as it stands at present, cannot be of any benefit to either country, let alone itself. With surging human rights issues, economic embargoes placed on Syrian oil by the European Union and the freezing of Syrian assets by the United States, it goes without saying that the internal, political stability of Syria is the most significant issue that should be focused on. A Syria with rampant violence, bloodshed and on the brinks of a civil war is a Syria which only poses a threat to France and to Turkey.

As far as Turkey is concerned, instability in Syria destabilises its border and the geographical proximity of the two countries is such that the future regime of Syria plays an influential part on the general geo-political structure and stability of the region. As for France, the more secular a future regime in Syria will be, the better. Another Algeria or Tunisia will most certainly not be welcomed by the French administration.

The future of Syria, most unfortunately for the Syrian people remains very uncertain. However, what can be said of the present time is that France, Turkey and the global community as a whole, have a necessity to ensure that there is a peaceful transition of power in Syria in order to keep the balance of the region, the Muslim Brotherhood and the global world order in general. The key issue which should be a priority on everyone's mind should be a Syrian stability and the establishment of a democratic government in the country.



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