REFLECTIONS in international arena, the international community has the



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The background of the responsibility to protect doctrine of international law  

In the year of 2000, the International Commission on
Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) managed to publish a contentful
report regarding the Responsibility to Protect (Hilpold, 2006). Reconsidering
the definition of the collective security with the assistance of emergence of
shared responsibility conception. The Report offered that, in the case of a
threatening situation for the people of a state which cannot protect its
citizens and has a legitimacy problem in international arena, the international
community has the duty to intervene the situation as a humanitarian act (Sen,
2013). These threatening situations may compose of genocides, ethnic cleansing
and such heinous crimes. Of course, prior of an intervention all the diplomatic
means to prevent has to be used. Prevention is the first and most important
principle to obey but after all the efforts made, there comes the second
important principle which is the reaction. In this context, it is crucial to
have the right authority to implement the necessary precautions with the
reasonable prospects. Surely, the right authority means UN in this case (ICISS,

In 2004, the need for international collaborations in
response of the new threats to the international security stated in the report of
the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. To maintain
collective security more efficiently, this report presented some crucial criteria
and goals in the terms of Responsibility to Protect doctrine (United Nations,
2004). However, after the importance of shared responsibility emphasized on the
Report of 2004, in the year of 2005 UN World Summit, The Responsibility to
Protect doctrine officially and explicitly affirmed via paragraphs 138 and 139
(United Nations, 2005). The recognition by UN Security Council followed that
with Resolution 1674 on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in 2006. Hereby,
the protection of populations from war crimes, ethnic cleansing and such
heinous crimes against humanity, accepted as the international duty under the
doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (SC, 2006).

After an introduction with the terminological
explanation and historical evolution of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine,
the first section of study examines the international reactions to the Syrian
conflict within the perspective of the doctrine. Then, the role of Turkish
state in the Syrian Crisis evaluated in the second section. Thirdly, the Turkish
approach to the doctrine in the Syrian case analyzed with empirical evaluation.
Finally, the paper concludes with an offer for the resolution of ongoing
humanitarian issues in Syria in accordance with the Doctrine.

This essay aims to analyse the Turkish implementation
of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine in the case of Syrian Crisis. The
essay suggests that the Turkish approach to the Doctrine is more cyclical
rather than a principal one. Turkish policies regarding Syrian crisis,
repeatedly shifted its direction according to the foreign policy developments. The
data related with academic background and conceptual framework of the doctrine,
and the position of the Turkish state come from an academic research including
books, articles, newspapers and official reports. Furthermore, in order to create
a ground for analysis of the usage of the doctrine in the Syrian case, the
essay employs a method with qualitative and quantitative analysis of the
archival research in primary languages by using archives in English and Turkish

International Reactions to the Syrian Civil War in the context of Responsible
to Protect Doctrine

Richard Cooper and Juliette Kohler consider the Responsibility
to Protect Doctrine as the tool for establishing empathy and promoting the
sense of compassion in international arena (Cooper & Kohler, 2009). This
approach became more important within the case of Syrian crisis. The armed conflicts
arose between the government and opposition sides turned into a civil war where
thousands of people lost their lives and millions displaced from their homes. The
report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNCHO), revealed
that 5 million of the Syrian population forced to move other countries as
refugees and other 6.3 million relocated in Syria. The number of people who
need humanitarian aids passed 13.5 million and 4.5 million of those people are
living in inaccessible areas (UNCOHA, 2017). These tragic numbers indicates how
the situation in Syria fits into the approach of the Cooper and Kohler.

The UN Human Rights Council-mandated Commission of
Inquiry (CoI) repeatedly reported the war crimes and heinous human rights
abuses by the hands of the government forces and some armed opposition groups
that also violated International Humanitarian Law (IHL) (Independent International Commission of Inquiry on
the Syrian Arab Republic, 2017). There
were also chemical attack incidents during the war which observed and recorded
by The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-Joint Investigative
Mechanism (OPCW, 2017). Accordingly, between 2014 and 2015 in three different
times, chlorine gas used by the forces of Assad Regime. Therefore, this is a
direct violation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2118 which reaffirming
that the proliferation of chemical weapons constitute danger for international
peace (UNSC, 2013).

These violations took attention of the international
community to the Syrian crisis. The former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
several times underlined that the incidents in Syria shall accepted as issues
of the International Criminal Court (ICC) (Buncombe, 2015). Despite these
efforts, the UNSC only passed a number of resolutions on humanitarian aids,
peace talks and chemical weapons in Syria and have not meet the expectations of
Responsible to Protect Doctrine. The resolutions may referred to the responsibility
of government for the protection of citizens but never completely practiced.

Lately, in December 2016, there was a voting in UN
General Assembly about the establishment of an International, Impartial and
Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for assistance of the investigations of war crime
accusations in Syria (UN, 2016).

role of Turkey in the Syrian Crisis

Turkey is one of the most affected countries by the
Syrian civil war from the first day. The involvement of the Turkey has begun as
a mediator state between opposition and so called “brother” of former Prime
Minister today’s President Erdogan, Bashar Al-Assad’s government (Colasan, 2012).
Once the Turkish attempts for mediation yielded no result and Assad started to
hit civilians, the response of Turkish government escalated and Turkish side
began to military aids to the Free Syrian Army (Stack, 2011). Moreover, Turkish
state proceeded an open-door policy for Syrian refugees by building huge refugee
camps and Turkey hosted FSA in its territory (Aras, 2012). The antagonistic relationship between two governments lasted till
today but the complicated nature of the Syrian civil war introduced new
challenges for Turkey. Increasing PKK (Partîya Kalkeran Kürdistan) affiliated
Kurdish presence as a leading force in the northern Syria was one of that
challenges to Turkish government. The numerous statements from Turkish side did
not prevent the rise of Kurdish influence in the region and U.S. and Russia
continuously supplied military aid them to fight with extremist jihadist so
called Islamic State (ISIS) (BBC, 2015; 2017). On the other hand, Turkish
community witnessed several deadly ISIS attacks and it became a national
security issue for Turkey too (Al Jazeera, 2017). Turkey was supporting the US
led international coalition against ISIS but the failed coup attempt of the July
2016 revised Turkish government’s foreign policy including Syrian issue.
Turkish-Russian rapprochement followed this incident and one month after the
failed coup attempt Turkey announced the launching of Operation Euphrates
Shield (OES) against ISIL and Turkish army crossed the Syrian border (Entous et
al., 2016). Today, Turkey still has an important role in the Syrian conflict
and recently, there have been several tripartite meetings between Turkey, Iran
and Russia regarding Syrian civil war (Sudagezer & Sim?ek, 2017).

implementation of the Doctrine in the case of Syria

In 2012, after a Turkish jet shot down by Syrian
government, the first open threat to the Syrian regime by Turkish state made by
the announcement of Prime Minister Erdogan regarding Turkey keeps its right for
a military retaliation (Turgut, 2012). Erdogan stated that if any Syrian jet
would violate Turkish airspace it would be considered as a threat for national
security and will hit by Turkish forces (Black & Borger, 2012). Hence,
after the jet incident the Turkish stance for collective action shifted on the
supportive side. Turkey made a call to North Atlantic Treaty Organization
members to gather in Brussels urgently to put Article Five into force. Article
Five, which is about if any of the members attacked it would mean that attack
is to all members, is in parallel with the Responsible to Protect Doctrine in
terms of both of them are in favor of collective action (para. 8). In the
following October of 2012, a Turkish town hit by a bomb and five civilians died
because of it. Afterwards of that bombing, Prime Minister gave a direct message
about intervention (Hansen, 2012). As
Russia proposed that the Syrian regime hand over its chemical weapons to the
international community, Turkish President, Gul, stated that Turkey was knowing
that Syria had those chemical weapons and the cleansing of them is something to
be grateful. However, Gül also stated that the promises should not remain
unfulfilled and there must be a new strategy to find a way out from these
tragic war to protect the people of Syria (Hurriyet Daily News, 2013).  

As Turkey’s calls for an international response have
been useless, especially with the recent settlement on handing over chemical
weapons, Turkey decided to continue with its rhetoric against the Syrian regime
and continue to take the burden of over 600,000 Syrian refugees in its border
towns (Pamuk, 2013). The Turkish border policy was open until 2014 and millions
of Syrian used that as a chance of way out from the war. Turkish government
repeatedly called international community to take responsibility for the protection
of the refugees (BBC, 2016). While
the images from dramatic human flood to the European states, International
Community still was not capable of producing solution to the refugee problem.
In the March 2016, Turkey and EU reached an agreement regarding the refugee
issue and EU states accepted to take 72,000 Syrian to their countries as
migrant and promised financial aid (3 billion Euros) to the Turkey in return to
hosting millions of refugees (European Council, 2016).

As of December 2016, the Turkish implementation of Responsible
to Protect shifted to use of diplomatic means with the help of tripartite
meetings. Turkey, Iran and Russia has agreed on extending ceasefire between
Assad Regime and opposition groups and encouraged the peace talks (Sanchez,


The examples from Turkish implementation of Responsibility to Protect,
clearly shows that Turkey shouldered a crucial humanitarian role in the Syrian
civil war. However, it is hard to say that, Turkey opened the door for millions
of Syrians because of state principals. The decisions of Turkish governments during
the period of Syrian conflicts show that the Turkish approach was strictly
depended on the international geopolitical developments. Nevertheless, it is a
fact that Turkey is under a heavy burden and the international community should
find a way to share that burden.

According to Achiume (2008), “Responsibility to Protect” as a concept of
international law, would facilitate the division of responsibilities equally
among international community and would force states to take action against the
refugee problems. Thus, the burden of Turkey would also be relieved. The
agreement between EU and Turkey is an example of cooperation under the influence
of Doctrine. The international refugee law is not fulfilling the necessities
for the sharing of the responsibilities with hosting states such as Turkey but
the Responsibility to Protect doctrine provides the basis for the international
responsibility. The further adoption of the doctrine in Syrian crisis is the
viable solution in terms of international law for the both assistance of
hosting countries and protection of refugees.