Syria's government is calling for the return of thousands of refugees who fled to Turkey to escape violence in a northern town.

Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud says security, electricity, water and communications have now been restored in Jisr al-Shughour and the area is now safe.

Some 8,000 Syrians have sought refuge in camps in neighboring Turkey following a military crackdown that authorities said was to snuff out "armed terrorists" in the region.

Mahmoud said following a Cabinet meeting late Tuesday that the government tasked the Syrian Red Crescent Society with coordinating with Turkish authorities to guarantee the return of refugees.

Turkey Plans Buffer Zone on Syrian Land

Ankara is gradually losing hope and distancing itself from President Bashar al-Assad.

If you look closely, the prime minister is becoming increasingly tough with every statement he makes and the dose of his warnings is increasing. Even though he has not burned bridges, like he did with Moammar Gadhafi, a surprise is still expected. The dominant belief is that Assad will not be able to solve the situation easily.

The talks I have had with people who are the final decision makers on the subject show clearly how serious the situation is.

It is not only that the tensions in Ankara are rising, but the viewpoint of Damascus on Turkey is also changing. The embraces and words of fraternity of the past do not exist anymore.

On Syrian State Television, it is now openly said that the weapons of the Muslim Brothers are coming from Turkey. Let us not forget that the Muslim Brothers are as dangerous, and as much of an enemy, for the Syrian administration as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, is for us.

As if this is not enough, a Turkish involvement behind the rebellions and the Antalya meeting of the dissidents is being discussed. Assad has not put forward his stance. And he has not put Ankara on his opposing side but, you will see, it is not too far away.

Ankara's Worst Case Scenario

What Ankara fears most, and will mobilize, are the clashes expected to expand in Aleppo and Damascus and the Assad regime decides to react extremely tough and bloody way. The meaning of this is that Assad uses all his military power and the internal conflict transforms quickly into an Alawite-Sunni clash. What is expected, as a consequence of this, is the flow of tens of thousands of Sunni-Syrians to Turkey. An official I spoke to on this subject said this:

"Turkey has opened its territory for now, but when the figure reaches a point where we cannot handle it, then we will have to close the border."

Now, this is the situation the political power in Ankara worries about the most. The same official continued: "We would close the border, but we cannot turn our backs on neither the Sunnis nor the Alawites. If chaos starts, then we will have to form a security zone or a buffer zone inside Syrian territory."

In a summit in Ankara recently, this scenario was discussed.

Robert Fisk has written about this possibility before and has drawn much criticism, but what he said was true.

Scenarios, Preparations Unfolding

Military and civilian meetings about the buffer zone, and other measures to be taken, have increased in recent days. Add to that the invitation of all ambassadors in the Middle East to Ankara. The pressure is building.

It is not only talk when Ankara says, "All measures have been taken."

The most dreadful item on the agenda is the formation of a security zone inside Syrian territory that has too many risks and could overthrow the regional equilibrium. For that reason it is never a desired option.

But there is not much hope.

Let us be prepared.

Erdogan 'Losing Patience'

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the last time. "We are losing our patience," Erdogan said. Erdogan asked al-Assad to end operations, ensure an atmosphere of security, listen to the opposition, make public a reform schedule, and implement security law.

Israel Hopeful on Reparations of Ties with Turkey

The possible cancellation of a Gaza-bound flotilla from Turkey could be a "window of opportunity" to repair Turkish-Israeli diplomatic ties, a source familiar with the developments tells the Daily News. Nevertheless, Israeli navy forces are conducting drills to ready themselves for a possible repeat boarding of the flotilla.

Diplomatic sources spoke Wednesday about a "window of opportunity" to repair the Turkish-Israeli relationship following the Turkish general election, if a Turkish aid group suspends plans to dispatch a ship to break the Gaza blockade.

"The cancellation of the flotilla will certainly open a ground to normalize bilateral relations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already given positive signs by praising Turkish democracy immediately after the June 12 election," a diplomatic source familiar with the developments told the Hürriyet Daily News.

"Sometimes there is a need for the right moment, the right atmosphere. This might be the right moment," the source said, hinting that more positive messages would come from Israel if the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, canceled its plans to send a humanitarian aid ship to Gaza.

İHH Reconsiders

On Tuesday, the İHH, which last year dispatched the Mavi Marmara ship with a similar flotilla fatally raided by Israeli commandoes, signaled that it might cancel its plans this year, depending on regional developments, especially those in neighboring Syria.

"We are reconsidering our plans. We cannot close our eyes to the developments on our doorstep," İHH board member, Hüseyin Oruç, told the Daily News.

The İHH's canceling of its plans would be seen as a positive step by Israel, even if other ships from other countries depart for Gaza, the Daily News has learned. Such a situation would be perceived as showing that it is other groups, rather than the Turks, who are causing the problem.

In addition to the Mavi Marmara, 21 other vessels are set sail to Gaza after meeting June 27 in international waters in the eastern Mediterranean, close to Greek Cyprus.

Turkish-Israeli relations were seriously damaged after Israel raided the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010, killing nine. Turkey insists on an apology and compensation to normalize its relations with Israel.

The Israeli Embassy in Ankara and the Turkish Foreign Ministry are holding routine meetings to discuss both the upcoming flotilla as well as bilateral relations, the Daily News has learned. This development demonstrates that work is being done behind the scenes to mend fences between the allies.

Israeli Military Holds Drill

The Israeli military, meanwhile, is preparing itself for the upcoming flotilla, set to sail in late June, by holding a routine exercise. Sources told the Daily News that was nothing new, as the Israeli military regularly holds such drills. It has been learned, however, that this time members of the military are readying for every scenario, including the possibility of using force, but aim to avoid any casualties.

Turkish Foreign Minister in Hatay

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in southern province of Hatay on Wednesday where he went to observe the living conditions of Syrians who fled to Turkey after running from violence in Syria. Davutoglu told reporters that Syria was not just an ordinary foreign topic for Turkey, and could never be. "It is impossible for Turkey to be indifferent to developments taking place in Syria," Davutoglu said.

Turkey Puts No Limit on Number of Syrian Refugees

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Syrian citizens taking shelter in the southern province of Hatay on Wednesday. Davutoglu said, "It is out of question to stop inflow of Syrian citizens after their number reach 10,000." Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's special envoy had a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan Meets with Syrian Meets with Syrian Delegation

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's special representative, Hasan Turkmani, and an accompanying delegation at the Prime Ministry Official Residence on Wednesday. Erdogan's meeting with the Syrian delegation took place behind closed doors and lasted nearly three hours. Speaking to reporters prior to his meeting with Erdogan, Turkmani said that some Syrians will remain in Turkey as guests for a short while. Turkmani's comments came after hundreds of Syrians fled to Turkey recently escaping violence in the country.

Cynical Words from Israel

Deputy Minister of Israel Regional Cooperation Ministry Eyub Kara cynically told the press that he sent a letter to the Turkish Government about sending a "Humanitarian Aid Flotilla" to Turkey to help the refugees from Syria. He said Turkey is sending such aids to Gaza, so we, as Israel, asked for permission to send the same aid to Turkey. He said the letter was given to the Turkish Embassy in Israel.

No Shaking of Hands at Parliament this Time

Devlet Bahceli, the chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), speaking to the Hurriyet Daily, explained his party's post-election strategy. Bahceli said, "We shook hands with Ahmet Turk at the beginning of the previous legislative term. Don't think that you will see the same picture this time, because there were many things said with a victory glory after the elections."

Goal for Constitution Date Set

When talking about a new constitution, Huseyin Celik, the spokesman of the Justice and Development Party (AK), said, "We hope all political parties will make their preparations until October 1. We can make a remarkable process if there is good will."

Former Opposition Leaders Calls for Grand Party Convention

Ex-leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, has called his successor, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, to convene a grand session of the party, demanding change in the party leadership after the elections which saw the CHP win 26 percent of the votes. "No one should fool oneself. The election result is not a success. Kilicdaroglu should take an initiative and call for the grand session," Baykal told the Daily.

Independent MP Faces Prison Term

Hatip Dicle, an independent candidate who was elected lawmaker from Turkey's southeastern province of Diyabakir in last Sunday's general elections, faces a prison sentence of 20 months for "making propaganda" for the terrorist organization PKK. Turkey's High Board of Election gave Dicle a one-week deadline to present his defense. Otherwise, the board might revoke Dicle's status as MP. If that happens, the ruling Justice and Development Party would get another lawmaker.

Turkey's Budget Runs Surplus Despite Elections

Turkey's central budget ran a surplus of 2.8 billion Turkish liras in May, despite last Sunday's general elections. The central budget for the first time ran surplus for the fourth time in a five month period in 2011. Deficit dropped by 98 percent from 9.9 billion Turkish lira to 233 million TL. Unemployment figures were also promising, as the jobless rate was down to 10.8 percent in May from 13.7 percent a month earlier. The number of the employed increased to 23.29 million. Youth unemployment also dropped from 24.6 percent to 19.3 percent.

Generals Testify in Alleged Anti-Government Black Propaganda Campaign

Three generals with the Turkish Armed Forces testified on Wednesday to a prosecutor probing an alleged anti-government black propaganda. Generals Mehmet Eroz, Hifzi Cubuklu and Mustafa Bakici stood before the prosecutor for allegedly building Internet sites in a campaign to besmirch the ruling Justice and Development Party government.

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