Ankara OK with Syrian leadership role
REUTERS photoThe Turkish government believes that the current Syrian leadership could potentially take part in talks aimed at resolving the Syria crisis, the RIA news agency quoted Ümit Yardım, Turkey’s ambassador to Russia, as saying on Aug. 11.
“We want the existing political leadership of the country to take part in the negotiation process,” it cited Yardım as telling a news conference in Moscow, according to Reuters.
Yardım also said Ankara was not opposed to the current Syrian leadership playing some kind of a role in a possible political transition, the TASS news agency reported.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu, however, said in a TV interview that a political transition in Syria with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not possible.
Russian President Vladimir Putin received his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in St. Petersburg on Aug. 9 during which the leaders discussed Syria, a conflict where they have long backed opposing sides.
Meanwhile, a senior Russian senator said Russia was planning to expand its airbase in Syria into a permanent military facility.
Russia’s Hmeimim airbase outside the Syrian coastal city of Latakia currently houses warplanes used in Moscow’s bombing campaign in support of long-time ally al-Assad.
“After its legal status is agreed upon, Hmeimim will become a Russian military base. The appropriate infrastructure will be built and our servicemen will live in worthy conditions,” Frants Klintsevich, the deputy head of Russia’s senate committee for defense, told Izvestia newspaper, according to AFP.
Klintsevich added that the number of Russian warplanes based in Syria could grow but dismissed the possibility that nuclear weapons or heavy bombers could be permanently based in the war-torn country.
“Reconnaissance and fire support from the Russian Air Force allows the Syrian army to successfully complete the tasks at hand,” Klintsevich said. “Russia understands that if measures are not taken, the major terrorist threat will reach it too.”
In a move that could indicate Moscow is seeking to establish a more permanent military presence in Syria, Putin requested earlier this week that parliament ratify an agreement inked with Damascus last year to set up the base.
Moscow, which also operates a naval facility in the Syrian city of Tartus, began its bombing campaign in support of al-Assad’s forces in September 2015, a move that helped shore up the Syrian regime’s crumbling forces.
Putin in March ordered the surprise withdrawal of the bulk of Russia’s military contingent from Syria, claiming Moscow’s mission in the country had all but been accomplished.
Putin said, however, that Moscow would maintain an air force facility in Syria to help monitor the progress of a cease-fire in the war-torn country.
The Kremlin has in the past denied that it was building other military facilities in Syria.