ISTANBUL – Turkey supports both armed as peaceful Syrian opposition, and offers both groups the possibility to operate from Turkey. The peaceful Syrian National Council might open an office in Turkey soon. The armed Free Syrian Army operates with Turkish military protection from a refugee camp in the border province of Hatay.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), composed of defected Syrian Armed Forces personnel who found shelter in Turkey and of cells in Syria, is being commanded by colonel Riad al-As’aad, who is in a refugee camp in Turkey at the border with Syria.The ‘officers camp’ is tightly protected by Turkish armed forces.
The connection between the Turkish government and the FSA became clear for example late last month by an interview Riad al-As’aad gave to the New York Times: the interview was arranged by the Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the suit al-As’aad was wearing was bought for the occasion by his guest country, and the leader arrived accompanied by a group of heavily armed Turkish soldiers. After the interview Turkey didn’t allow press contact anymore.
Much more open is the Turkish support for the Syrian National Council (SNC), that was founded at the end of August in the Turkish metropole of Istanbul. The Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs Davutoglu keeps in touch with the representatives of this umbrella of Syrian opposition groups, and within a few days it must become clear if the SNC can open an office in Turkey. There are also talks going on, with also the Arab league, about establishing a buffer zone of five kilometers around the Turkish-Syrian border where the opposition could withdraw if necessary. The buffer zone would also stop Syrian refugees wanting to go to Turkey.
Ever since the uprising in Syria started Turkey developed from an ally of Syria into one of the strongest supporters of the resignation of the Syrian government. Supporting both armed and peaceful opposition is part of that.