The report released on May 9 by the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) titled “The Name of Walking in a Mine Field: Forcing Change in Syria,” indicates that Syria is in need of “urgent change” and Turkey needs to develop policies in the direction of democratic change, as human rights groups say the death toll from Syria's crackdown on a nine-week uprising has exceeded 1,000.
The report states that Turkey's priority should be preventing a foreign intervention.
“A foreign intervention in Syria means disaster for both Turkey and the region. A solution is necessary before it reaches that point. Turkey should focus on Syria with all of its power. If the issues in Syria are not solved as soon as possible, Turkey's initiatives in the region will fail,” the report said and continued: “Turkey's assertion to be a model state in the region will weaken in particular. A Turkey that cannot be influential in solving matters in Syria will lose its positive image in the eyes of the Arab public. The situation in Syria could be seen as a foreign policy problem in other countries, but it is a family matter for Turkey. Events in the region will greatly affect Turkey.”
Among the short-term policy recommendations of the report edited by Osman Bahadır Dinçer and Gamze Coşkun are:
- Instead of sending messages to the Syrian public to appease them, the Syrian government should be persuaded to pursue judicial and political reforms
- Turkey should not make statements of encouragement to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's regime
- Ethnic pluralism in the country may be dangerous since it can lead to social conflict and all segments of the society should take part in the government to prevent this from happening
- If there are only cosmetic changes and the regime does not truly change, the public's anger will never subside and a bloody conflict will not be far
- Scenarios on Syria's future should include possible war in the country and the region
- All ethnic and religious groups, not only in Syria but in the entire region, should be contacted and mechanisms should be established to evaluate the results of those meetings.
The USAK report also has mid and long-term policy recommendations, including:
- Syria's unity and stability should be a priority and opposition groups should be closely followed
- Projects should be developed for ethnic and religious groups that have been excluded from power
- BBC has been broadcasting in Arabic in the region for years. Russia and France have Arabic broadcasts, too. Although late, it is positive that Turkey has started Arabic and Kurdish broadcasts to the region and it should continue to do so
- Turkey needs to cooperate with Syrian security authorities closely, especially in regards to the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
- Turkey should work for the integration of all people in Syria to protect the unity of the country
- Turkish businesspeople should be encouraged to invest in the regions close to the Turkey-Syria border, as production costs are not high in the area and those investments will facilitate Kurds' integration in Syria and Turkey. Turkish investment in Syria means that eventually Turkey will not have to buy arms to fight the PKK problem
- Policies should be carefully expressed without using insulting language
- Comprehensive media and civil society projects in Syria will continue to make the Turkish system attractive for the region's people
The report highlighted the words of former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış, who said that a big part of the Syrian public feels a close affinity to Turkey and the two governments should use the mutually friendly feelings of their people for the benefit of both countries.