Turkey’s Ambassador on Syria: ‘We must act, act now and act decisively’

Ambassador Namik Tan Atlantic Council Board Dinner

From Namik Tan, Atlantic Council:  [F]rom Libya to Egypt, and from Iraq to Yemen, every day, the developments in the Arab world are keeping us on our toes.  But nowhere is the challenge more immediate and the humanitarian imperative so dire than in Syria.  The international community has failed the Syrian people.  The situation is so bad it can hardly get worse, but if left to its own devices, it will.  And this will possibly ignite decades-long regional strife that may pose a generational change – challenge, I’m sorry.  Hundreds of thousands of lives, the future of a whole nation and a volatile region is on the line.  A ruthless, autocratic regime is obliterating its own people, driving a stake through its very heart.  By dividing communities along ethnic, religious and sectarian fault lines, the seeds of a – (inaudible) – civil war are being sown.  Moreover, existing chemical weapon stockpiles, activities of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and PKK and the plight of more than 2 ½ million IDPs add to the gravity of this unfolding tragedy.

Turkey is, once again, on the frontlines, ladies and gentlemen.  We are hosting almost 80,000 guests from Syria.  This very fact, as well as the situation on our borders, is extremely destabilizing.  The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, (if ?) left unchecked, will only grow, and most likely, it will grow exponentially.  Meanwhile, it does appear like our open-door policy towards Syrians is, in a sense, absorbing the potential international reaction towards the Assad regime, making everyone think this is Turkey’s problem.  But Turkey, along with other neighboring countries, cannot be left alone in shouldering this burden.  The implosion of Syria is a regional conflagration that threatens international peace and security.  What we expect from our partners is Syria’s engagement and meaningful contribution to the resolution of this conflict. . . .

Yes, there are those who would like to see this tragedy drag itself out for decades if possible.  But we cannot allow that to happen.  We must show more resolve, and there are many tools at our disposal.  There are many avenues still unexplored.  We can and should think that working on all possible scenarios, all possible contingencies, and how to help the Syrian people meet their legitimate aspirations with further – without further bloodshed.  After all, we, as responsible members of the international community, do have a responsibility to protect civilians from mass slaughter, and this applies as much to Syrians as it did to Libyans, Bosnians and Rwandans alike.

While the organic and homegrown nature of this struggle must be respected, if you do not provide the right sort of outside support, the Syrians will rightly ask why they were abandoned in their darkest hour.  In short, we must act, act now and act decisively.  When we – when we, together and collectively show the right sort of leadership and resolve, others will follow, and those who oppose will know that we will not falter. 

Excerpts from address by Turkish Ambassador to the US Namik Tan to the Atlantic Council Board of Directors

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