Unfazed by international reluctance to launch a military strike against Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan will be using his chance to influence members of the Russin G-20 to take action at the meeting which runs today and tomorrow. Syria stands accused of using chemical weapons on its own people just outside Damascus.
“The G-20 summit will be a very, very important venue for us to discuss these issues [concerning Syria]. We will keep these issues on the agenda of either out bilateral or multilateral meetings,” Erdogan told reporters before his departure to Russia yesterday.
The prime minister is expected to hold brief meetings with President Obama and President Putin and other leaders of G-20 countries.
Presidents Obama and Putin, French President François Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also expected to be present at the summit in St. Petersburg.
Although clearly disappointed by President Obama’s decision to seek approval for a military strike from Congress, Turkey made no comment about it other than President Erdogan reiterating that Turkey was ready to take part in “any coalition of the willing”.
“Mr. Obama’s decision to bring the issue to the Congress can be regarded as an internal political decision. It’s perhaps because of his self-confidence,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution on Wednesday authorising limited US military intervention in Syria, ahead of a contentious debate in the full Senate next week on the use of force.
The committee voted 10-7 in favour of a compromise resolution that sets a 60-day limit on any engagement in Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, and bars the use of US troops on the ground for combat operations.
Russia, however, is warning that a U.S. strike on Syria’s atomic facilities might result in a nuclear catastrophe and is urging the U.N. to present a risk analysis of such a scenario.
The warning came from Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich. He said in a statement on Wednesday that a strike on a miniature reactor near Damascus or other nuclear installations could contaminate the region with radioactivity, adding: “The consequences could be catastrophic.”
Erdogan, however, remains critical of Russia and other countries’ stances of mobilizing only after a chemical attack took place.
“More than 100,000 people have been killed. You will not say anything about these killings. But you will call this attack a crime because it’s a chemical weapons attack killing 1,300 or 300 persons. You will say ‘We’ll support an action at the U.N. if it’s proven.’ Truly speaking, I have difficulty understanding this.”
President Obama will only attend the opening ceremony of the G-20 summit, Erdogan said, noting that his audience with the U.S. leader would necessarily be short. It will be the first personal meeting between the two leaders since Erdogan’s trip to Washington on May 16. The Obama-Erdogan meeting follows an increase in tensions between the two countries after the White House strongly condemned Erdogan’s accusation that Israel orchestrated the July 3 coup d’état in Egypt.