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The end of the Turkish-Syrian honeymoon

Tensions between Syria and Turkey are so high that escalation is the order of the day, a columnist writes in today's roundup of Arabic language opinion. Other topics: regimes' leftovers and combating cultural amnesia.

Tensions between Syria and Turkey are now so high that escalation is the order of the day

It is no simple matter for Turkish officials to announce that Saturday's twin car bombings in the Turkish town of Reyhanli were carried out by Turkish people with links to Bashar Al Assad's intelligence. Also not simple is the suggestion that there are connections between the Reyhanli attacks and the recent Baniyas massacres, wrote Ghassan Charbel, editor in chief of the London-based Al Hayat newspaper, in a front-page column.

"The deterioration in relations between the two countries is not new. But this time around, it is taking more serious dimensions," Charbel noted.

When a government points fingers at a neighbouring country over deadly attacks at home, a response from the government in question becomes a must.

With Russia being an obstacle at the UN Security Council, Ankara is expected to look for ways to respond beyond firing a handful of mortar shells across the borders.

The recent past has seen numerous signs of escalation between Damascus and Ankara. Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not mince words while repeatedly calling on Mr Al Assad to step down. Ankara has not only given refuge to hundreds of thousands of Syrians, but also hosted Mr Al Assad's enemies, including the Free Syrian Army.

In response, Mr Al Assad received Turkish opposition leaders and put the blame for the tension entirely on his former ally. He also urged the people of Turkey to step up pressure on Mr Erdogen. Meanwhile, Syria's state-run media has been warning of a return of the Ottoman Empire in the Brotherhood's "Trojan horse".

The timing of the Reyhanli blasts has been a subject of speculation. It came shortly after the US and Russia agreed to convene a global conference to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict. Fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party started to pull out of Turkey after a ceasefire, a deal that affected Syria's Kurds and seemed to have increased the odds of Turkey taking away the Kurdish card from Damascus.

The blasts also took place days before US President Barack Obama's meeting with Mr Erdogen after his meetings with Arab leaders.

After the latest bombings, Mr Erdogan is expected to push the US president for more decisive action on the Syrian conflict and to warn that Mr Al Assad retaining his grip on even a small territory will pose a serious danger to the stability of Turkey and the region.

The long "Turkish-Syrian honeymoon" is history. Now escalation is the order of the day. Ankara wants a Syria without Mr Al Assad; Syria wants a Turkey without Mr Erdogan. But the game is more complicated, with Russia and Iran claiming to own the keys to a solution. Mr Erdogan will urge Mr Obama to open the locked gate.

Integrate old into new for countries' benefit

Arab Spring countries are facing the thorny issue of how to deal with the old regime's leftovers, wrote Faisal Al Qassem in the Doha-based Al Sharq newspaper.

Some argued that the new regimes must integrate the remnants of the previous ones to benefit their respective nations and maintain stability. Others said that remnants of previous regimes must be discarded.

The writer quoted Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, saying: "Let's build the new regime by the stones of the old regimes."

"I don't know why some people in the Arab world insist on being more revolutionary than Lenin," he continued.

Lenin realised that the old regime's expertise could serve the communist regime, and at the same time avoid any possible threat from isolation.

This does not mean that the old regime's figures have to be reinstated as if nothing happened. People are not to blame for seeking revenge on ruthless tyrants.

Yet the process must be a careful one to avert punishing thousands of people who were affiliated to this or that ruling party only to save their necks or earn a living.

New rulers in Iraq opted to uproot and persecute any person linked to the Baathist regime. They deemed all Sunnis as part of the Saddam's regime.

Look at Iraq now, the writer said.

Arab societies suffer from 'cultural anaemia'

An old saying goes like this: "Culture is the lifeblood for the soul." But the Arab society still suffers from chronic "anaemia", wrote Ahmed Hasan Al Zaabi in a satirical column in the Dubai-based Al Emarat Al Youm newspaper.

In Arab societies, customers waiting to receive their orders at the smallest Shawarma restaurant in town far outnumber people attending a great cultural event; patrons lolling about in shisha cafes equate both the audience and organisers at a well-advertised scientific meeting, the writer noted.

"I was invited into a symposium on the latest Zionist assaults on the Al Aqsa mosque," he said. "Three speakers were at the conference The surprise: there were only six people, me included, in the audience. One person kept nodding during the lecture, while another was busy on Whatsapp."

Yet another person, however, seemed most focused on the lecture.

"Excuse me, may I have the pleasure of knowing you?"

"Ibrahim El Mahallawy," he replied politely, toying with a key chain.

"Are you a researcher or an activist?

"I am the unlucky watchman waiting for them to finish to close the room."

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzoutini

aezzouitni@thenational.ae

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