Turkey will build a 2.5-kilometer wall along the Cilvegözü post on the border with Syria to prevent illegal crossings, Trade and Customs Minister Hayati Yazıcı announced May 23. The border crossing lies within 10 kilometers from Reyhanlı town, where a twin bomb attack killed 51 and wounded more than 100 on May 11. A protocol with the Turkish Armed Forces has already been signed for the construction of the wall, Yazıcı said. (Hürriyet Daily News via France24, May 24)
Members of Syria’s main political opposition group on May 23 began three days of talks in Istanbul to elect a new leader and formulate positions before an anticipated international conference in Geneva next month to launch negotiations on a possible transitional government in Syria. The Istanbul meeting came a day after leading members of the group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, and top foreign affairs officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, held an 11-country meeting in Amman, Jordan, on the deteriorating situation in Syria.
The opposition group’s previous leader, Sheik Moaz al-Khatib, resigned amid political infighting in March. At the start of the talks, Sheik Khatib put forward his own 16-step proposal for a political transition to a post-Assad government. Among other things, it would absolve all combatants involved in “legal military action” from prosecution, and allow Assad and 500 people of his choosing, along with their families, to seek refuge in any country willing to take them. The plan would retain some members of the current government. Bashar Assad would hand power to Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa or Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi within 30 days of accepting the plan. (NYT, May 24)
The leader of Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, meanwhile pledged to his supporters they will prevail in Syria, where they are backing President Assad. “This battle is ours… and I promise you victory,” he said in a TV address. Syrian rebels in the besieged town of Qusair, near the Lebanese border, say they are under heavy bombardment from Hezbollah combatants. Last week, John Kerry said thousands of Hezbollah fighters were contributing significantly to the violence in Syria. He added that Iran was actively supporting Hezbollah’s involvement—a claim denied by Tehran. (BBC News, May 25)
See our last post on the politics of separation walls.