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Turkey’s Syrian Conundrum

Turkey has emerged as the key country in the Syrian endgame, writes Henri J. Barkey. Almost every proposal has a Turkey component, from calls for that nation’s armed forces to enter Syria, to proposals for establishing “humanitarian corridors.” Ankara finds itself in an impossible situation, alarmed by Syria’s steady march toward the abyss, but reluctant to intervene militarily.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) shakes hands with Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan before a meeting in Damascus October 11, 2010.              REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri   (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS)

Turkey has emerged as the key country in the Syrian endgame. Proximity is one reason; Turkey has a 600-mile border with Syria and also a long adjacent coastline. Another reason is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presumed influence in the region and his past close association with Syria’s President Bashar Assad.

Everyone, it seems, from pundits to officials, are gaming out Ankara’s options. Almost every suggestion aired has a Turkey component: some call for the Turkish armed forces to enter Syria, others would like to see Ankara establish safe havens for refugees and Assad’s opponents, while a third group wants to see “humanitarian corridors” established.

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