Diplomatic efforts to solve Syria crisis heat up
AFP photoDiplomatic efforts to solve the more than five-year-old Syrian crisis, which has resulted in the death of more than 290,000 people, have gained momentum in recent days, with international political figures taking initiatives to bring the war to an end.
PM Binali Yıldırım said Aug. 18 during a dinner with the heads of diplomatic missions in Ankara that one of the most crucial points for solving the Syrian crisis was preserving the country’s territorial integrity.
“One of the most important conditions for going back to smooth sailing in Syria is preserving the territorial integrity of Syria. Syria depends on a governance figure that does not rest on ethnic structures,” Yıldırım said, adding that he believed a “noteworthy development on this path could be experienced in the forthcoming months.”
“In this field, Turkey is conducting all the active works that are on Turkey’s share,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş on Aug. 17 described Ankara’s Syria policy as “a source of many sufferings for Turkey today,” adding that relations with Russia were important for a solution.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made a surprise visit to Iran on Aug. 18, while en route to India for a scheduled official visit.
Çavuşoğlu’s unannounced stop in Iran on Aug. 18 came after reports that he was planning to visit following Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s trip to Ankara on Aug. 12.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency on Aug. 19 in India, Çavuşoğlu said he had made a stopover in Iran before continuing on to India in order to discuss regional issues, especially the Syrian crisis.
“We conduct bilateral or multiple meetings with our counterparts outside various platforms over the topic of reaching a cease-fire in Syria. Importantly, we [discussed] these issues that we had talked about in general in more detail,” Çavuşoğlu said in India on Aug. 19, reiterating his previous remarks that Iran and Russia played a crucial role in solving problems in the region, namely Syria and Iraq.
“We are ready for cooperation so long as the territorial integrity of Syria is preserved,” Çavuşoğlu said, just one day after Yıldırım’s similar remarks.
“We need to [redouble] our efforts on this topic [solving the Syrian crisis]. As time flies, the problems cuts even deeper and becomes unsolvable. That was the reason why I stopped over in Iran on [Aug. 18],” he added. “It was a very useful stop.”
Çavuşoğlu also conducted a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, from India.
The call, which touched on the current developments in Syria, was initiated by the Turkish side on Aug. 18, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 19.
The two counterparts had most recently conducted a telephone conversation on Aug. 16 – again upon Çavuşoğlu’s request. During that phone conversation, Çavuşoğlu and Kerry exchanged ideas on the latest situation in Syria, including the latest developments surrounding Manbij and Aleppo, the same diplomatic sources said.
“During the talk [on Aug. 16], Mr. Minister and Mr. Kerry exchanged ideas on the latest situation in Syria, including the latest developments surrounding Manbij and Aleppo, as well as the extradition process of FETÖ [Fetullahist Terrorist Organization] protagonist Fethullah Gülen and the visit that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will pay to our country in the coming days,” said the source, speaking under customary condition of anonymity.
Çavuşoğlu is on an official visit to India from Aug. 18 to 20. On the occasion of the visit, the “Road Map between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey and Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India,” whose negotiations have been completed, is expected to be adopted.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity, told the Associated Press that the top American and Russian diplomats plan to meet next week in another bid to stop Syria’s civil war and forge a counterterrorism partnership.
The sources said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would gather in Geneva on Aug. 26, and that the talks could take two days.
The diplomacy comes amid fierce fighting in Aleppo, and new Russian bombing operations from an Iranian air base.
Moscow backs the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad, while Washington and Turkey support the “moderate” rebels and want al-Assad ousted.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Aug. 18 that Russia and Turkey were working together constructively on resolving the Syrian crisis.
Speaking at a weekly briefing, Zakharova said differences between Russia and Turkey on the issue “cannot be solved in a single day because these are significant disagreements, substantial issues.”
“Work on this is underway and we value it as positive and constructive,” she added, in the wake of a meeting earlier this month between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, marking rapprochement after a crisis last November.
Meanwhile, Gen. David L. Goldfein, the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, paid a visit to the İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana in order to inspect the U.S.-led coalition fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Aircraft from six countries, including the U.S. jets, are contributing to the coalition from İncirlik.