Free Press Journal

Divided G20 seeks harmony on Syria at Turkey summit



Antalya: Leaders from the world’s top 20 industrial powers meet in Turkey from today seeking to overcome differences on a range of issues including the Syria conflict, the refugee crisis and climate change. With the health of the global economy less of a headache than in previous years, it is the war in Syria that will cast the longest shadow at the two-day Group of 20 summit in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya.

The glitzy five-star venue may seem far from the tragedy of the conflict that has left over a quarter of a million people dead, but the border with Turkey’s conflict-torn neighbour is just 600 kilometres (370 miles) away.Security will be tight even by the draconian standards of previous such meetings, with some 12,000 police on duty and the authorities conducting raids in search of Islamic State (IS) militants who have slipped over the border from Syria.

The meeting is the biggest gathering of world leaders ever hosted by Turkey and gives President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the perfect opportunity to present himself as a key global player two weeks after his party regained its overall majority in a parliamentary election.

The G20 format provides a rare chance for US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin of Russia to mix with the likes of Saudi King Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I pray and hope that G20 will provide a platform whereby all of these issues can be discussed openly and then we can understand each other,” Erdogan told CNN ahead of the summit.But finding agreement on Syria will be tough, with Russia vehemently opposed to host Turkey’s strategic aim of toppling President Bashar al-Assad and Ankara so far only receiving a lukewarm response to its plan of a safe zone inside Syria.

“A breakthrough is very unlikely on Syria or the refugee question,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director
for the German Marshall Fund of the United States. At the same time, he said the G20 would make a show of
unity on the aim of bringing peace to Syria in the final communique. “They will want to end on a positive note, on a
convergence of strategy.”

A German official said five working sessions were expected to discuss development and climate change, economic growth, financial markets and reforms as well as global challenges such as terrorism and refugees. The source said the refugee issue was expected to be raised specifically at the leaders’ dinner on Sunday night. Turkey, which is hosting 2.2 million refugees from Syria, wants a concrete financial aid package from Europe in return for stemming the flow of migrants setting out from its shores to Europe.