Dialogue with Assad would be a shame for Turkey, MHP leader says

Dialogue with Assad would be a shame for Turkey, MHP leader says

Serkan Demirtaş – ANKARA
Dialogue with Assad would be a shame for Turkey, MHP leader says

Turkey under no circumstances should establish dialogue with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, the main political supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, has said, stressing that the main objective of Turkish foreign policy should be to save Syria from the Assad regime.

“I am not in favor of Turkey establishing dialogue with the Assad regime; under no circumstances should this take place. It would be a shame and loss for Turkey if it were to abandon its achievements in the fight against terror to the hands of the Assad regime,” Bahçeli told journalists in Ankara at an end-of-year assessment meeting on Dec. 26.

The MHP has been the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) main political ally since 2016, calling their cooperation the “People’s Alliance.” The two parties allied in the June 24 presidential and parliamentary polls and will continue to work together in the upcoming local elections in March 2019.

The Turkish government has since 2011 staunchly ruled out any contact or negotiation with the Assad regime. But Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu last week suggested this policy could change, stressing that “everybody needs to consider working with Assad if he wins democratic and credible elections in the future.”

Bahçeli said Turkey’s political objective should be saving Syria from the Assad regime and expressed his support for the government’s “effective and multidimensional foreign policy particularly in the Middle East.”

“The Republic of Turkey, which was shaping its foreign policy upon the advice of the West in the past, is now conducting a diplomacy that shapes the East and the West. This is positive and should continue in the same way,” Bahçeli said.

He also praised what he called Erdoğan’s influence on U.S. President Donald Trump that resulted in a change in Washington’s Syria policy to pull out all troops from the war-torn country.

Expressing his support to Erdoğan’s “the world is bigger than five” motto, Bahçeli suggested a global summit should be convened in Turkey where all prominent countries will come together to discuss resolving all the problems of the Middle East.

Operation into east Syria ‘must be done’

Bahçeli also lent strong support to Turkey’s “fight against terror inside and outside of Turkey,” stressing that the Turkish army must conduct an already-announced operation into eastern Syria. “Turkey’s operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch against terrorism have yielded good results. But we should not leave it unfinished,” he said.

Erdoğan said Turkey has decided to postpone its planned operation against the YPG into eastern Syria after the United States announced its sudden withdrawal from Syria. The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is designated as a terror organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

“Terror must be wiped out. Determination [against terror] should endure,” Bahçeli said, urging the government to be cautious of what he said were efforts to create a corridor from northern Iraq to northern Syria with the support of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government to establish a statelet in the area.

AKP-MHP ‘should get more than 52 percent’

Bahçeli also touched on ongoing works with the AKP for the local polls. The MHP will not present candidates for many provinces, while saying that his party was expecting similar gestures from the AKP in certain constituencies like Adana, Mersin and Manisa. An agreement with the AKP has been provided for 30 greater municipalities, Bahçeli said, stressing works will soon be concluded and all candidates will be announced in due course.

“We have a formula for the local polls. X+Y must be either equal or bigger than Z, which is 52 percent of the votes. If the ‘People’s Alliance’ can preserve or increase its votes, it would save Turkey from those who are calling for chaos,” he said.

“We attach great importance to the local elections, because, with these elections, the presidential government system will resonate at the local administrative level. We don’t see these elections as either winning or losing one or two municipalities; it’s for the survival of the country.”