Regional developments including the political unrest in Syria, which shares an 850-km border with Turkey, topped the agenda of talks Sunday in Jeddah between Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.
“The talks primarily focused on the need to restore peace in the Middle East including the reform initiative in Syria and the change of guard in Libya,” said Turkish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ahmet Muhtar Gun.
Gun said the uprising in Syria was one of the core issues discussed by the two sides. He said that Syrians have been fleeing to Turkey in large numbers. More than 12,000 Syrians are being sheltered by Turkish authorities in four camps along the Turkish-Syrian border.
The Saudi-Syrian meeting comes five days before the meeting of the high-power Contact Group on Libya. Istanbul will host the meeting on Friday that will bring together foreign ministers from Western nations, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and representatives of the Libyan opposition, to map out the future course of action and to stabilize the country.
Asked about other topics that Davutoglu discussed with senior Saudi officials, Gun said that there were several issues of common concerns that figured in the talks. The Middle East tour of the Turkish minister is also seen as an attempt to revive his country’s influence in the region in a changed situation. Davutoglu has pressed Arab leaders, particularly Syrian President Bashar Assad, to embrace political reforms.
The Turkish foreign minister, who left for Tehran after wrapping up his two-day visit to Jeddah on Sunday, also discussed situations in other Arab countries. “It is more of a sort of stock-taking trip to the Middle East and to explain the Turkish position on the regional developments,” said another Turkish official.
In a departure statement earlier, Davutoglu said that “we have conveyed our advice … what we wish is the immediate launch of a reform process in Syria and an end to violence.”
Davutoglu said that Ankara had been playing its role to defuse the crisis in the region. Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Tripoli, thus finally severing ties with the Qaddafi regime. Ankara is now cooperating fully with the leadership in Benghazi and, among other things, extending millions of dollars of aid money to it. More significantly, Turkey is re-establishing strong ties with Egypt.