Davutoglu vows to restore historic ties with mideast
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has responded to criticism of his government's Syria policy by vowing to restore historic links with a vast area spanning the Balkans and the Middle East that were severed by wars a century ago. "This is in response to those who criticize [the Syria policy]. We will bring down every wall built between us and brotherly peoples during the period of the Turco-Italian War [1911-1912] to the Balkan Wars [1912-13] and the Yemen War [1916-19]," Davutoglu said during a fast-breaking (iftar) dinner for bureaucrats from his hometown of Konya, which was held in Ankara on Wednesday. "We will restore our links with our brothers." The World War I era wars he referred to resulted in the loss of Libya, Ottoman territories in the Balkans and Yemen and Saudi Arabia, respectively. Davutoglu, known to be the architect of a policy that is based on active support for the opposition trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad, has been at the center of growing criticism as prospects of a divided Syria and a new autonomous Kurdish administration next to the Turkish border in north Syria ring alarm bells. Syrian Kurds, including a dominant group affiliated with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), established control over several towns near the Turkish border after Assad forces were apparently moved to more central areas to strike back at Syrian opposition forces. Observers are concerned that this could both fuel PKK separatism in Turkey and could be the beginning of the disintegration of Syria into a Kurdish north, an Alawite enclave in an around Latakia and a Sunni Arab zone. "It is becoming clearer every day that the Syria policy is wrong," said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who has been a critic of the government's active involvement in the Syrian crisis. "We want to live in peace with our neighbors, but the current situation shows that Turkey will be faced with more difficult problems in the future," he said. Davutoglu defended his government's unconditional support for the anti-Assad opposition, saying regimes oppressing their own people will not survive, no matter which foreign powers stand by them -- in apparent reference to Russia and China, which have protected Assad from harsher international sanctions, including a military intervention. According to Davutoglu, standing by the opposition was the only policy option for Turkey given the brutal tactics the Assad regime used to suppress the opposition. "We stood by them, and we will stand by them. We will defend these moral values no matter who says what." The foreign minister likened the current anti-Assad stance to the government's call for Egypt's now ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, to resign after the Tahrir Square protests against his rule and said there were critics back then in Turkey who attacked this call as well. "Those who were unable to see that Mubarak was to leave a month later are now criticizing our clear and open message [for Assad's removal] regarding Syria," he said, claiming that Turkey is now the country with the biggest say in Syria's future. Davutoglu, a former academic, also dismissed criticism that his idealist stance towards foreign policy issues is "too assertive" or "unrealistic." "Those who find it wrong or see it as a fantasy should know that only those who carry an ideal in their minds and a goal in their hearts are the ones who are able to leave a lasting mark in history," he said.