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US and Turkey to consider no-fly zones for Syria

Published time: August 11, 2012 14:06
Edited time: October 12, 2012 16:44
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before their meeting in Istanbul.(REUTERS / Handout)

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before their meeting in Istanbul.(REUTERS / Handout)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu are considering implementing no-fly zones for Syria after holding Saturday talks in Istanbul.

­According to Reuters, Clinton said that Ankara and Washington need to plan ways to assist the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad – including possibly implementing a no-fly zone.

During an interview with reporters, Clinton indicated the no-fly zone was a possible option, but said the issue needed “greater in-depth analysis.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the US used its power to aid opposition forces. The same tactic was used to help Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Until now, the US has been reluctant to take on a military role in Syria. But if the Libyan situation repeats itself, US military intervention could be a real possibility in the near future – only serving to escalate Syria’s 17-month-old conflict.

During the meeting, Clinton also said a working group will be set up in Turkey to respond to the Syrian crisis, according to AP.

The group would increase the involvement of the intelligence services and militaries of both the US and Turkey.

“We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning. It needs to be across both of our governments,” Clinton said.

Clinton is also scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul – both of whom support the Syrian opposition movement.

The US is aiming to lay groundwork for democratic transition in Syria.

The meeting comes as reports of violence were taking place in Damascus.

Earlier on Saturday, Syrian state TV reported that gunmen abducted three Syrian journalists and their driver, who work for a pro-government TV station, while covering violence in a suburb of Damascus.

According to Middle Eastern history and politics Professor Jeremy Salt, the opposition has little hope of winning the conflict without the help of its Western allies.

“As of now, Damascus has mostly been cleared of rebels. Aleppo on its way to being cleared. We can see that the army has a strategy here. It cleared out the Salah al-Din district within two days, and now it’s working its way through other suburbs. So unless the rebels get more support in terms of heavy weaponry, they are very much fighting on the back foot. So that’s why Hillary Clinton is in Istanbul. To ask the basic question, ‘What’s next?’” Salt told RT.

Meanwhile, opposition fighters are still struggling to gain control of Aleppo – a key battle city.

Rebels in Aleppo say they are preparing a counterattack against government forces, after heavy bombardment forced them to withdraw from the south-west district of Salah al-Din on Thursday.

Aleppo is the cause of serious concern for Western countries, Foreign Affairs Analyst Richard Heydarian told RT.

“The West is smelling blood right now because of the recent events, including the fleeing of the prime minister. What the Clinton administration [sic] is trying to do right now is try to coordinate some sort of military approach with Turkey and possibly also with the help of Israel and other Atab countries because they feel the opposition has a chance to retain its stronghold in Aleppo,” Heydarian said.

Turkey, however, has its own motivations for taking part in the meeting. The country is dealing with a growing humanitarian crisis of its own, as it struggles to support 50,000 Syrian refugees who have fled into the country. 

Clinton has announced an extra US$5.5 million in help for displaced Syrians in Turkey.

“Turkey has two sides to this. On the one hand, it is very much concerned with the tragedy and a lot of Syrians flowing in – it is one of the biggest recipients of refugees from Syria. On the other hand – it is a possible rise of Kurdish insurgency – and there is coordination between Kurds in Syria and Iran. Turkey fears Kurds could launch its own independence campaign against Turkey,” Heydarian said.

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