Tension Between Turkey, Syria, and Russia Rises

Shawn Humphrey

Reuters reported on Tuesday that the Syrian army and Turkish forces were close to coming to blows over Syrian helicopters that were seen traveling near the Turkish border. Turkey scrambled F-16s for the third day in a row, though Syria had not strayed over the border.

Meanwhile, a Syrian general and 84 soldiers defected on Monday, having gone to Turkey. The events occurred in advance of another "Friends of Syria" meeting on July 6, one that, as AFP reports, Russia has said it will skip out on, according to the French foreign minister.

Here's a closer look at the numerous reports coming out of Syria and in tense diplomatic circles this week.

Assad regrets Turkish tensions: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was sorry that the country had shot down the Turkish fighter, telling a Turkish newspaper that he wouldn't permit the two countries to go to war over the incident, according to Reuters.

Syrian forces attack rebels in Douma: Near the capital city of Damascus, the army shelled opposition forces in Douma, a nearly deserted town after residents had fled over the weekend.

Along with the 85 soldiers who defected, one Aleppo police officer also fled into Turkey, saying that artillery rounds were being fired against rebels in the north and east of the city.

France acknowledges Russia will skip meeting: On Tuesday, France took questions regarding its hosted Friends of Syria session, noting that apart from Syrian opposition members, "around a hundred representatives from governments and international and regional organizations who want to convey a strong message to Bashar al-Assad's regime," would attend according to the French Foreign Ministry via a daily press briefing.

However, as AFP reported the minister said Syria's close ally would not participate in the upcoming talks.

Russian Minister skeptical of further meetings: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told media on Sunday that he was critical of the meeting concept, saying that the group are "'friends' to only part of the opposition, at a time when we are trying to unite the efforts of external players and act in the coordinated way."

Lavrov denied it when asked whether a document agreed to in Geneva on June 30 actually had a provision calling for Assad to step down.

"In its original form there was a phrase that people who interfere with the world should be excluded," he explained. "It does not fit the principle of inclusiveness in the political process in Syria and it does not comply with the U.N. Charter on non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, and it also contradicts the logic of the document adopted today, which says that the Syrians themselves must decide the fate of their country in all its aspects."

Hague welcomes Twitter comments on Syria: Ahead of the third Friends of Syria meeting scheduled in Paris on July 6, Foreign Secretary William Hague's web site said he is encouraging people to ask policy questions about Syria via Twitter using the hashtag #askFS.

Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and an amateur Africanist, focusing his personal studies on human rights and political issues on the continent.