Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Syrian territory uninvited last weekend. While he was foreign minister, and before that, chief adviser to then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he used to boast of having visited Syria more than 60 times and seeing President Bashar al-Assad and his counterpart Walid Moallem more often than he had seen his own wife and children. Davutoglu was justifiably considered the architect of Turkey’s new opening to the Middle East and the backbone of the policy he dubbed “Zero Problems with Neighbors” was the rapprochement with Syria.
That was before relations soured and turned into animosity by the end of summer 2011. Davutoglu's last visit to Syrian territory was not official. He took time during his election campaign in the border province of Urfa to visit the Suleiman Shah mausoleum, now in its new location in Syrian territory a short distance from the Turkish border. Putting his feet on Syrian territory aroused protests from the Damascus regime. As the Turkish government declared the Syrian regime “illegitimate,” that regime’s claims on the “illegality” of Turkish leaders’ acts do not resonate in Ankara at all.