World Bulletin/News Desk
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç harshly criticized Lebanon's Hezbollah on Monday for fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the protracted Syrian conflict, warning the group that it faces a backlash from the Islamic world.
Speaking to reporters after a weekly Cabinet meeting in Ankara, Arınç slammed Hezbollah for its active combat role on Syrian turf, saying that the Lebanese group should be ready for criticism and a backlash likely to come from the rest of the Islamic world.
Arınç noted that the Arab League, Union of Islamic Scholars and many other institutions in the Islamic world have vehemently criticized the Lebanese group for joining the battle on the side of the Assad regime.
This official criticism marks a change in the discourse of the Turkish government, which has seemed uneasy, as if the government had been taken by surprise by the active involvement of many actors, namely Iran and Hezbollah, on the battlefield along with the Syrian regime.
Turkey formerly avoided blaming and openly criticizing such actors through the media in the past, but the recent official remarks and accusations against those involved in the Syrian fighting reveal Ankara's concerns over the developments taking place in its southern neighbor.
Arınç also spoke about the ongoing compensation talks between Turkey and Israel and said that although both countries are very close to an accord, a number of disputes remain to be settled.
In late March, Israel offered an official apology for a deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in 2010 that ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists, prompting a harsh reaction from Ankara, which scaled back diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.
“Apart from the apology and compensation, ending the blockade on the Gaza Strip is another demand that Turkey insists upon. These three elements are indispensable for us. Therefore, we need to see that Israel is taking positive steps with regards to lifting the blockade of Gaza,” Arınç told reporters.
According to the Israeli media, the compensation talks have stalled due to a disagreement between sides over how much money Israel should pay to the families of the victims. The Israeli Haaretz daily reported that Turkey has insisted on $1 million for each victim, while the Israeli delegation has offered to pay $100,000 to each family.
In response to a reporter's question, Arınç said that those who planned an attack against the Apaydın refugee camp in the southern province of Hatay, where commanders of Syrian opposition forces and their families reside, are the same people who helped a delegation of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) go to Damascus to meet with Assad earlier this year.
Declining to elaborate on the details of an ongoing police investigation into the plot by a number of assailants who had targeted the Apaydın camp, Arınç did note that the suspects accompanied the CHP delegation on its trip to Damascus.
Last week, a CHP official admitted that the suspects, who are now in jail awaiting trial, had escorted the delegation to the Syrian capital but denied knowledge of any link to the attack plan, saying that the CHP officials do not know the suspects or their intentions. The CHP reiterated that it had no knowledge of the plot and has had no contact with the suspects since the delegation returned to Turkey.
Arınç also touched upon the May 11 Reyhanlı bombings, which resulted in the deaths of 52 people and wounded more than 100, and said an investigation is still under way to determine what led to the failure on the part of security forces to prevent the attack amid mounting reports of poor coordination between Turkey's intelligence organization and police in the run-up to the bombings.
According to news reports, although the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) gave information to and warned police and other security departments in the Hatay region prior to the attack, the bombings were still carried out and ravaged the border town of Reyhanlı, a major hub for Syrian opposition fighters and thousands of civilian refugees.Last Mod: 29 Mayıs 2013, 09:59