More Syrian Defections as Details on Jet Attack Emerge
Thirty-three Syrian soldiers defected to Turkey Sunday night, including two colonels and a general. The group is the latest in a series of recent defections to neighboring countries, bringing the total number of generals to defect to 13.
More details have emerged over Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet on Friday. According to an anonymous government source, Syria apparently also fired on a Turkish-flagged search and rescue plane deployed to find the downed aircraft, causing it to abandon its search and return to Turkey. Syria then offered to conduct a joint search operation, but only on the condition that the jet and its pilot would be detained in Syria for an investigation. Turkish authorities refused and have since conducted the operation on their own.
Meanwhile, E.U. foreign ministers condemned the Syrian attack at a meeting but said it is not grounds for military intervention. The German foreign minister reaffirmed their preference for a political solution and called de-escalation critical. This comes as Turkey summoned NATO envoys for a meeting in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss if the incident represents a violation of Turkey’s security and territorial integrity. Secretary Clinton also condemned the incident calling it a “brazen and unacceptable act” and promised to work with Turkey to hold Syria accountable.
In Syria, U.N. human rights investigator Paulo Pinheiro is meeting with top Syrian officials in Damascus to investigate claims of torture, executions, and crimes against humanity. Pinheiro is the first member of the U.N.’s Syria team to be allowed into the country. Pinheiro will return to Geneva to report his findings on Tuesday.
Also, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Israel Monday as part of a Middle East tour to discuss Syria as well as Russia’s business interests in the region. Putin will head to the Palestinian territories next to meet with Mahmud Abbas followed by King Abdullah in Jordan.
Additionally, the USAK Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies published a report on Turkey’s capacity as a regional power in the Middle East. The study argues that Turkey has an “expectations-capabilities gap,” in which its economic, diplomatic, and soft power currently fall short of the country’s aspirations as a role model and key player in the Middle East.