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Turkey Accepts Interim Government with Bashar Assad

Aug. 22, 2016 (EIRNS)—In a major shift in Turkey’s Syria policy, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has given a green light to having Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining in a transitional government in Syria for a peace settlement.

"The most important priority for us is to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible," Yildirim said at a press conference in Istanbul on Aug. 20.

"He [Assad] has the blood of 500,000 people on his hands. Will Syria be able to carry this burden? Today both the U.S. and Russia see that in the long run it is not possible. But for a transition, it is possible to sit and talk. It is obvious that, whether we like it or not, Assad is an actor."

To the question of whether Turkey will sit and talk with Assad, Yildirim said,

"Assad’s counterparts are the opponents of the Syria regime. It is out of the question that we will talk with him. They [al-Assad and the opposition] are the counterparts. They should sit and talk.... Fixing an issue to one thing or person means you consenting to the deadlock."

He also said Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia had an "important share" in this policy shift.

This shift was first indicated by Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus in a statement published in the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 19, where he said many of Turkey’s sufferings today were a result of its Syria policy. He added that he wished a viable perspective for peace could have been produced before now, but Turkey had failed to do that as had many other countries.

Hürriyet editor-in-chief Murat Yetkin links this with recent diplomatic activity including following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to St. Petersburg, where he met Vladimir Putin on Aug. 9. This was followed by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s trip to Ankara and a return trip to Tehran by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu on Aug. 19 en route to India. At the same time Yildirim made a statement suggesting that Turkey could contribute to a solution in Syria together with the U.S., Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, among others. "We are not pessimistic," he stressed.

When asked if this is a change in policy, and why not earlier, Yildirim replied, "Finding a solution is the most important thing for us." Yildirim went on,

"It is important that no more people die. If we are going to save those people, to heal the bleeding wound, the rest are details. All the rest could be talked through and a solution could be found. As I said, Assad cannot be a uniting figure in Syria in the long run, it is just not possible. The main countries involved—the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others—should come together and Turkey should make more effort on that."

Yetkin points out that this has the same policy that main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu proposed four years ago to then-Prime Minister Erdogan in an August 2012 letter. Yetkin points out that this will no doubt come up when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits Turkey on Aug. 24.

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