News is breaking that Syrian opposition leaders are planning to meet in Antalya next week. According to Hurriyet, the meeting is scheduled for May 31 to June 2 at the five-star Falez Hotel. Ammar Qurabi, president of the exiled Syrian National Organization for Human Rights, has confirmed the meeting will draw together numerous members of the opposition from across different factions.
Turkey's role in organizing the meeting is unclear, though there is no word from the government or in the Turkish press that the government is doing anything other than allowing the meeting to take place. Travel to and from Syria to Turkey became visa-free in 2009.
In April, MUSIAD, the Islamist-affiliated Independent Industrialist's and Businessmen's Association, organized a conference of the Muslim Brotherhood in Istanbul. This meeting will apparently include more parties than just the Brotherhood.
An interesting tidbit (if true) from the hardline Debka website has also appeared. According to Debka, Turkey has taken is taking serious steps to distance itself from Assad.
1. The following message was posted to Damascus on Tuesday, May 24: Turkey is not a member of the European Union and is therefore not bound by its sanctions it has imposed freezing Assad's assets and barring him and his regime heads from travelling. Nonetheless, the Syrian ruler is advised not to try and test its intentions by trying to visit Turkey.
2. Assad's repression of the uprising in the Kurdish regions of northern Syria is causing ferment among the Kurds of southern Turkey. Unless it is stopped forthwith, Ankara will take overt action against the Syrian ruler.
3. Erdogan has discontinued his almost daily phone conversations with Assad. In any case, his advice to the Syrian ruler on how to overcome the uprising against him was never heeded.My understanding is that this information should be treated with a grain of salt, and according to official Turkish government reports, Erdogan is still in regular contact with Assad.
Our sources report that he also ordered the Hakan Fidan, chief of Turkish MIT intelligence service, to stop traveling to Damascus with updates on Syrian opposition activities. Assad has thus lost his key source of information about what the opposition is up to.
More as it happens . . .
UPDATE I (5/26) -- Joshua Landis of Syria Comment has a few more details on the meeting, as well as some history of the MUSIAD meeting from April and its potential to seriously irritate Assad's Syria.
UPDATE II (5/27) -- More on the opposition meeting from Joshua Landis's blog can be found here. Still not much in the Turkish press . . .