Speaking on a TV program on Monday, Davutoğlu evaluated the establishment of international control over chemical weapons as a “positive development” but stated that “the proposal — detecting and taking inventory of chemical weapons, which takes a long time — aims to pave the way for forgetting the recent massacre and it will give a green light for further massacres to be made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”
He said that Turkey is concerned the move will take attention away from the recent use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime on Aug. 21, which, according to the US intelligence assessment, killed more than 1,400 people, one-third of whom were children.
Assad could avoid a US military strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday, but he immediately made clear he was not making a serious offer.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed the Syrian side to seriously contemplate the issue. Lavrov said, “If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons … makes it possible to avoid strikes, then we will immediately get to work with Damascus.” Syria announced that it welcomes the call.
The Turkish foreign minister underlined that Russia’s proposal should not dilute international determination to make the regime pay for its role in the chemical attack. Though he views Syria’s welcoming of the proposal as a positive step forward, Davutoğlu said this move won’t eliminate a crime that killed 1,700 people. Insisting that the use of poisonous gas should be punished severely under international law, Davutoğlu said that this punishment is also necessary to prevent further use of these weapons.
‘Iran, Russia should review stance on Syria’
Placing chemical weapons in the hands of an international inspection team is a responsibility that every state must fulfill, according to Davutoğlu, who drew attention to the fact that Syria is not a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) but that Syria is not devoid of responsibility by not joining it. Davutoğlu said accepting international control of its chemical weapons basically means that Syria is admitting that it had them and used them on Aug. 21.
“Saying ‘If we don’t do this [use chemical weapons] anymore, you won’t punish us’ means [Syria is] accepting that it has committed a crime,” he said.
Davutoğlu maintains that whoever takes sides with Assad will be the partner of those who used weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons, and stressed that Russia and other backers of Syria now see a need to distance themselves from the regime. “Whatever state has ethical values, moral concerns and thinks about its own future should not stand with Assad,” he added.
‘Turkey has no affiliation with al-Nusra Front’
Speaking on news reports and claims that suggest Turkey has cultivated some form of relationship with radical groups operating in Syria, Davutoğlu rejected such charges in the strongest of terms.
“Turkey has no relationship with any radical group within Syria, especially with the al-Nusra Front. This is a claim by those who want to overshadow Turkey’s humanitarian politics,” he said.
The issue came to the forefront as the US Senate is contemplating its vote on Syria. Stalwart opponents and skeptics of an intervention in the US Senate have made sweeping arguments about whether American military strikes could empower radical elements among the opposition forces, including groups linked to al-Qaeda, an arch-enemy of Washington.
“Turkey views the rising of radical groups that are filling the power vacuum in Syria as a serious threat. This factor bothers us more than anything else,” Davutoğlu said.
Davutoğlu also discussed the controversial chemical attack, which Russia still has doubts about. Reiterating that Turkey’s findings affirm the Aug. 21 chemical attack was done by the Syrian regime, Davutoğlu said: “The opposition does not have weapons and there are obvious cities that opposition groups would attack. International and national intelligence affirms that chemical weapons were used [on Aug. 21].”