Turkish Prime Minister Ardogan with Syrian President Assad
2. France led the way with its call for a vote in the United Nations Security Council on a resolution condemning Syria’s response to the protests. The United States and European Union have already slapped unilateral sanctions on individual members of the regime. Even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s description of al-Assad rule’s as having “lost legitimacy” stopped short of calling for him to step down. See Al-Jazeera, “Clinton says Assad has ‘lost legitimacy,” July 12, 2011.
3. Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, a move that was condemned globally and that remains unrecognized by the international community. Approximately 20,000 Israeli settlers and 20,000 Syrians live in the area under Israeli occupation.
4. Further complicating matters for the position of Syrian Kurds is the fact that as many as 300,000 do not hold Syrian citizenship. In an apparent attempt to appease dissent in Kurdish-dominated regions such as al-Hasaka in Syria’s northeast, al-Assad issued a decree in April granting citizenship to Kurds. For more background on the position of Kurds in the current uprising in Syria, see Chris Zambelis, “Unrest in Syria Inspires New Wave of Kurdish Activism,” Terrorism Monitor (Jamestown Foundation), Vol. 9, Issue 22, June 2, 2011.
5. Over 450,000 Palestinian refugees reside in 13 refugee camps (nine official and three unofficial camps) in Syria. In addition, as a destination for Iraqis – Sunnis, Shia, and Christians – escaping the violence back home, Syria is also host to over 1 million Iraqi refugees who fled the country following the U.S. invasion and subsequent breakdown of order there.
6. The volume of bilateral trade between Turkey and Syria reached $2.5 billion in 2010, a 43 percent increase from the previous year. Both sides have also committed to expanding trade to reach a volume $5 billion in the next couple of years. In addition to being among Syria’s most important trade partners, Turkey has also spearheaded an effort to establish regional FTA’s and related Free Trade Zones (FTZ) linking its Arab neighbors, namely Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
7. Personal observations based on author’s two-month stay in Syria, March-April, 2010.