ANKARA – A month after Syria’s decision to close its foreign mission in the southeast of Turkey, trucks have been loaded with furniture from the Gaziantep mission before making their way back to Syria’s larger missions in Ankara and İstanbul. Meanwhile, Turkish missions remain intact and fully operational in the neighboring country.
Syria’s mission in the southeastern province of Gaziantep was emptied on Monday as the furniture was carried out of the building to be put into storage at the Syrian embassy in Ankara and consulate in İstanbul, Anatolia news agency reported. Many portraits of the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad were among the furniture removed from the mission building, which was stripped of mission banners. The Syrian diplomat stationed in Gaziantep closed the mission without elaborating on the circumstances of the evacuation. The Syrian mission was open erratically during the previous month, but Monday’s evacuation appeared to represent a definitive end to Syria’s diplomatic efforts in Gaziantep, a city very close to the common border between Turkey and Syria.
Syria’s embassy in Ankara also operates as acting ambassador in the absence of the ambassador, although no information was made public on the departure of Syria’s top envoy to Turkey. Ankara did not issue any comment in response to the evacuation in Gaziantep but asserted that Turkey’s missions in Syria were fully operational. Families of the embassy staff and support personnel were recalled to Turkey when ties between the nations strained to the point of breaking as a result of street mobs attacking multiple foreign missions in Syria and burning their flags.
A month ago, a local TV channel in Gaziantep reported that Syria was preparing to close down the Syrian Consulate in Gaziantep, adding that Syria would maintain relations with Turkey through the Syrian embassy in Ankara and the Syrian consulate in İstanbul. Prior to that, in mid-November, Ankara lashed out at the Syrian regime for allowing assaults by mobs on foreign missions around the country, including Turkey’s. Ankara issued a reprimand to Damascus, highlighting its inability to protect foreign missions, demanding an explanation and warning that measures would be taken if Damascus failed to bring the culprits to justice.
Two weeks after the attacks on foreign missions, Turkey unveiled a set of measures against Syria for its “insistence on the bloody crackdowns targeting its own citizens,” which was reciprocated with a halt in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by Syria as a response to Ankara’s financial and economic blow to the country. For the last few months, Turkey and Syria have remained disconnected at the level of senior officials, as Turkish officials have voiced harsh criticism of the Assad regime “for not keeping to his words” and stopping bloodshed. Meanwhile, Assad has made it clear that he is uncomfortable with Turkish leaders voicing opinions in matters he considers to be domestic issues.
Source: Today’s Zaman