After the success of the first 'Friends of Syria' Group meeting, which was held in Tunisia, the second is planned to be held in Istanbul on March 20th. Turkey intends to continue implementing the embargo directed at French State Leader Nicolas Sarkozy in respect to this crucial meeting and will not be inviting him to participate. The 'Friends of Syria' group meeting in Istanbul will be chaired by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and is expected to be held at the State and Government Leaders and Foreign Affairs Ministers level. The sole exception however is France, because Turkey continues to implement an embargo against Paris for attempting to pass a law which would criminalize the denial of Armenian allegations. Therefore, Ankara intends to invite France's Minister of Foreign Affairs Alain Juppe alone. French President Sarkozy will not even so much as be extended an invitation. Speculation has surfaced that France may use the excuse of the April presidential elections to request the meeting be held on a Foreign Affairs Ministerial level. After the upcoming meeting in Istanbul, the 'Friends of Syria' group will next be meeting in Paris.
Efforts on establishing an exact date for the Istanbul meeting are ongoing in order to allow for maximum attendance. Erdoğan is scheduled to be in Germany on March 17th, he will be in Çanakkale on March 18th and will be in South Korea from March 26th-27th. It is for this very reason that the meeting is being planned between the dates of March 20th and March 26th. At the start of April, Erdoğan is also expected to be in Iran.
RUSSIA AND CHINA TO BE INVITED
The meeting in Istanbul is aimed at becoming a turning point for Syria. Representatives from the 70 countries that attended the meeting in Tunisia are expected to also arrive to Istanbul. In addition, Russia and China, the two nations to use their veto in the U.N. Security Council and whom both rejected an invitation to attend the meeting in Tunisia, are expected to be invited once again to participate in the 'Friends of Syria' group meeting. The Syrian National Council, which was recognized as a representative of Syria at the meeting held in Tunisia, is anticipated to be named Syria's 'sole' representative at the Istanbul 'Friends of Syria' meeting. In addition, it is also expected that the issue of whether or not the Syrian National Council will be given military aid will be determined in Istanbul.
Over the weekend, Davutoğlu met with representatives from the Syrian National Council in Istanbul, where they went over preparations for Istanbul. Following the decision for the Syrian National Council to establish a military committee, the members of the Syrian opposition relayed their expectations to Davutoğlu and complained that there was not enough international support. When members of the Syrian opposition issued a request for weapons in Europe, Turkish diplomatic sources had relayed information that "military issues did not come up on the agenda." Davutoğlu has openly expressed that he supports a policy of the opposition unifying with the other groups at play.
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