Russia must stop insisting on al-Assad’s leadership in Syria: Turkish FM

Russia must stop insisting on al-Assad’s leadership in Syria: Turkish FM

Russia must stop insisting on al-Assad’s leadership in Syria: Turkish FM

AFP photo

Turkey remains committed to a cease-fire in Syria but Russia must stop insisting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should remain as the leader of the country, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said April 9.

Speaking to local media, Çavuşoğlu said he told his Russian counterpart that Moscow had not taken the necessary steps in the face of breaches of the Syrian cease-fire. 

Çavuşoğlu had a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, late on April 7 and discussed the recent chemical attack on civilians in Syria’s Idlib province. 

Çavuşoğlu said he told Lavrov that Moscow had not taken necessary steps against the truce violations as a guarantor of the cease-fire in Syria and that the regime had ultimately used chemical weapons. Turkey is loyal to the process to maintain a cease-fire, but Ankara cannot remain silent against the “savagery,” Çavuşoğlu said he told Russia’s foreign minister.

“So you should leave your persistence on al-Assad and let the transition government begin,” the minister said he told Lavrov.

Çavuşoğlu also criticized the United States’ recent rhetoric that the future of the Syrian regime should be decided by the people of Syria. This rhetoric has “further encouraged al-Assad,” Çavuşoğlu said. 

“If you try to legitimize a regime that kills so many people, commits crimes against humanity and commits war crimes, then that regime will continue to kill,” he said.

“If one considers they don’t have any alternative to the regime amid the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), then the regime will suppose everyone will opt for it,” he added.

“They don’t have to prefer one of two evils. You can defeat ISIL together and the regime could be toppled,” he said.  

International actors should launch a diplomatic initiative in order to coordinate efforts for peace in Syria, which would topple al-Assad and pave the way for a transition process under the leadership that “everybody will accept,” he stated.

US, Russia in rivalry for YPG

Recalling that Turkey supported the recent U.S. intervention, Çavuşoğlu stressed that Turkey was not in a position to make a choice between Russia and the U.S. but was continuing the relations in a balanced way.
Çavuşoğlu suggested that the U.S. and Russia were in a rivalry to avoid losing the People’s Protection Units (YPG). But such a rivalry will not benefit the region, he said. “It’s not acceptable that the two superpowers are competing over a terrorist organization,” he said, identifying their situation as “incompetence.” 

Erdoğan: Russia should stop defending al-Assad

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Russia on April 7 to reconsider its support for the Syrian regime following the chemical weapons incident earlier this week and the U.S.’ military action in response.

“It is our hope that this will not be limited to the U.S. action… We hope that Russia gets involved as well – that at least they stop defending [Bashar al-]Assad,” Erdoğan said on April 8 in a televised interview.    

The president said he welcomed Moscow’s recent statement that “unconditional support is not possible” for the Syrian regime. “But let’s speed it up,” Erdogan said. “Let’s get rid of this trouble.”

Erdoğan said that while there was good progress in the Astana talks – carried out in parallel to the Geneva process – to reach a political agreement in Syria, “unfortunately it did not develop as we wanted.”    
On April 6, the U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base American officials believe was used to launch the Khan Sheikhoun attack that killed at least 100 men, women, and children and injured more than 500.