It was as important as the famous meeting between [then Iraqi Foreign Minister] Tariq Aziz and [then US Secretary of State] James Baker in Geneva prior to the war to liberate Kuwait. It was also no less important than the meeting between former Turkish Foreign Minister Bulent Ecevit and [then Iraqi Vice-President] Taha Yassin Ramadan prior to the war to occupy Iraq. I am, of course, talking about the meeting between [Turkish Foreign Minister] Ahmet Davutoglu and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
The al-Assad – Davutoglu meeting took place at a time that the al-Assad regime is moving closer and closer to sharing the fate of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya; this is due to mistakes made by al-Assad himself, rather than the planning of others. The reality is that he has not established a state of affairs that would protect any Arab state internationally, in the same manner that the [international] state of affairs has repeatedly protected the al-Assad regime. If we wanted to be brutally honest, then the state of affairs that has protected the regime of al-Assad senior and junior – and which represents their greatest achievement – has been their ability to secure the border with Israel for decades; a security that was not even achieved along the Israeli borders with Arab states that signed peace agreements with Tel Aviv.
However all of that has changed today, due to the will of the Syrian people, and the inability of the Baathist regime which is heading into a dead end. It is clear that the al-Assad regime is closer to collapse than survival, for this is a regime that has failed to move with the times, and engage with the changes that have occurred in the regional and international arena. Here we see the Syrian regime clashing with its closest ally, the Turks, who have tried – for years – to provide first aid to the Baathist regime that has already flat-lined, and the only question that remains is how this regime will be buried.
Therefore, we cannot consider that much depends on [the outcome of] the meeting between Davutoglu and al-Assad, particularly if the Turkish Foreign Minister’s message to Damascus was identical to that which has been leaked to some Turkish newspaper by Turkish diplomats. These leaks reveal that this message includes a call for Damascus to withdraw its security forces from all Syrian cities, releasing detainees, and a call for immediate elections which all new political parties that want to take part in the democratic experience in Syria can participate in. There are also indications that the Turks may even have asked Bashar al-Assad himself to step down from power.
Looking at the course taken by the Baathist regime in Syria – whether during the era of al-Assad senior or junior – we must acknowledge that everything that the Turks told the al-Assad regime did not reach a willing ear in Damascus, particularly as change in Syria would signify the end of this regime. The al-Assad regime’s problem is not that it is against change, but rather that it is incapable of change, for it is a regime that is solely concerned with remaining in power, even if this comes at the cost of the blood of innocent Syrians. This is a regime that is not concerned about development or restructuring or legitimacy.
Therefore, the question that must be asked today is: was the Davutoglu – al-Assad meeting the farewell meeting, particularly as all the signs indicate that with al-Assad continuing to make mistakes and pursue this policy of brutal suppression then the situation may soon require military intervention? The fact is that we will not have to wait too long to know the answer to this question, particularly as the Damascus regime will not be able to stop the winds of change that have blown through the region, whilst the al-Assad regime allies have today been struck silent and are distancing themselves from the Damascus regime. This is not to mention the successive and rigorous Arab positions [taken against Syria], and most importantly of all the steadfastness of the Syrian people themselves who are calling for the fall of the regime.