Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not ruled out possible contact with Bashar Assad, signaling a break with his long-held opposition to the Syrian president’s role in the Arab country’s future.
“The political doors are always open until the last minute,” Erdogan said when asked about a possible contact or cooperation with Assad.
Erdogan’s comments were reported by Hurriyet newspaper and other Turkish media on Friday, made on board his plane returning from a trilateral meeting with Russia and Iran to promote a peaceful settlement in Syria.
Even though Russia and Iran have backed Assad’s government since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011 and Turkey has supported his foes, the three countries have teamed up to help mediate a peace settlement.
Ankara has toned down its anti-Assad rhetoric, and the climbdown was clear during the trilateral meeting with Russia and Iran in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday.
Turkey made clear its “reservations” about Assad having any future role in Syria, Mahir Unal, the spokesman of the Justice and Development Party, told reporters.
Unal said Turkey emphasized that there must be negotiations between Assad and the opposition.
“It’s not within the logic of negotiations to have a precise position today on the political solution and on whether the transition will be with or without Assad,” he said.
Both Syria and Turkey are suspicious of US intentions in the Arab country’s north where Washington is supporting Kurdish militants.
Ankara considers the militants, which control a significant stretch of territory in Syria, a terror group and an extension of the Kurdish insurgency with Turkey’s own borders.
Erdogan met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday to discuss an end to the conflict in Syria.
The Syrian government welcomed the closing statement of the trilateral summit which called for a political settlement of the conflict.
Putin called for a congress of the Syrian government and opposition to draw up a framework for the future structure of the Syrian state, adopt a new constitution and hold elections under UN supervision.