No longer realistic to solve Syria crisis without Assad: Turkey’s major step back from Deputy PM Simsek
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek says Ankara can no longer insist on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s resignation as a precondition for resolving the nearly six-year crisis in the Arab country.
“The facts on the ground [in Syria] have changed dramatically, so Turkey can no longer insist on a settlement without Assad, it’s not realistic,” Simsek told a panel on Syria and Iraq at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss city of Davos on Friday.
“We have to be pragmatic, realistic,” he said.
The Turkish government had previously demanded the Syrian president’s resignation, describing his removal from power as the only solution to the conflict which has ravaged Syria since 2011. Ankara, however, has become less insistent on Assad’s leaving office since its recent rapprochement with Russia, which supports the Syrian president, and ahead of peace talks planned to be held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana on January 23.
Ankara has stepped up its cooperation with Moscow recently, prompting speculation that Turkey might be moving away from the US which is supporting Kurdish militants in Syria.
Representatives from the Syrian government and foreign-sponsored opposition groups are expected to take part in the Astana negotiations.
The negotiations, which exclude the Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist groups, are mediated by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The three countries successfully implemented a similar accord in December after militants were defeated in Syria’s northwestern city of Aleppo.
The Syrian president on Thursday said the upcoming peace talks in Astana would focus on enforcing a cessation of hostilities across the Arab country.
“I believe that they will focus, in the beginning, and will prioritize, as we see it, reaching a ceasefire,” Assad said.
The peace negotiations in Astana come ahead of the next round of UN-brokered political negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva on February 8.
The Astana talks would be held in the wake of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria which was mediated by Moscow and Ankara and endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on December 31.
Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy over the past six years. According to estimates by De Mistura, 400,000 people have been so far killed in the country’s crisis.