Erdoğan believes Putin ‘may give up on’ Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

Erdoğan believes Putin ‘may give up on’ Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

Verda Özer - JAKARTA
Erdoğan believes Putin ‘may give up on’ Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

CİHAN photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed his stance on the ongoing crisis in Syria and is “much more positive” about a future without President Bashar al-Assad, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“I saw him more positive during the face-to-face meeting we held in Baku and in a telephone conversation later,” Erdoğan told a group of journalists accompanying him on a trip to Indonesia.

“He does not have that initial stance; he is no more at the ‘we are behind [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad all the way’ point. Actually, I believe that he may give up on al-Assad; he is going in a much more positive direction,” the president added.

The two Black Sea neighboring countries, which have deep economic ties especially in the energy field, have differed extremely in regard to their approach to the Syrian conflict. 

Ankara has been keen for a regime change in Syria, while Moscow remains one of the staunchest supporters of the al-Assad government.

Turkey has recently started operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq and inside Turkey. The country also announced an agreement with the U.S. to open İncirlik base to an anti-ISIL coalition.

Erdoğan said Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and the United Kingdom may be included in the operations.
“Our allies and the related countries have been informed on the operations conducted against terrorist groups, including the PKK and DAİŞ,” Erdoğan said, using a different acronym for ISIL, adding that “the necessary steps were taken and they will continue.”

When asked about the warm relations between the U.S. and Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose armed forces are fighting ISIL in northern Syria, Erdoğan said the U.S. “knows Turkey’s dedication not to allow any terror group in northern Syria.”

“When we talked on the phone at the time of clashes with DAİŞ in Kobane, I had warned [U.S. President Barack] Obama not to send weapons there,” he said. 

“I said the fall of Kobane could be prevented by the help of the Free Syrian Army [FSA] and peshmerga. I said the weapons sent there could end up in the hands of not the PYD but DAİŞ. I told him that PYD includes elements of the PKK; it is almost a different structure of the PKK. But they did not want to understand that and sent the weapons there that night. Time proved us right.”

Erdoğan noted recent reports that the PYD was considering joining forces with the al-Assad government to fight Islamic extremism.

“As the coalition forces, we will discuss and evaluate these, and operate our road map accordingly,” the president added.