Russian and Turkish FMs to talk Syria

Russian and Turkish FMs to talk Syria

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Russian and Turkish FMs to talk Syria

DHA photo

Turkey and Russia are intensifying their dialogue on Syria to determine the best method of ending the bloodshed and leading a political transition while ensuring their growing bilateral relations remaining unaffected by Syria’s ongoing turmoil.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, will meet in Munich this weekend to discuss the ongoing international campaign to end 22 months of bloodshed in Syria.

The meeting will take place under the cloud of an Israeli attack against Syrian targets and after a surprising call from Syrian National Council head Moaz al-Khatib to talk with the Bashar al-Assad government.

Turkish-Russian dialogue over Syria intensified following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Turkey on Dec. 3, 2012, when the two countries agreed to keep their growing bilateral economic and trade ties unaffected by disagreement over Syria.

As part of their deal to keep in close contact, undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Feridun Sinirlioğlu paid a visit to Moscow to meet his counterpart, Mikhail Bogdanov, last month. The Davutoğlu-Lavrov meeting in Munich will be followed by another crucial reunion of the two ministers in Turkey in April as part of the joint strategic group.

“This dialogue helps both sides prevent bilateral problems arising from Syria,” a diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News, implying that the difficulty in reducing differences over the issue is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.

Turkey and Russia have been one of each other’s important economic and trade partners in recent years, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan set a new target of $100 billion trade volume by 2020.

Although heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, Turkey did not hesitate to allow a Russian company to build and operate its first nuclear plant. The two countries’ joint economic councils will meet in late April in Antalya.

During the meeting, Lavrov is expected to inform Davutoğlu about ongoing trilateral talks between Russia, the United States and the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, as part of the Geneva Agreement.

With concerns that al-Assad’s immediate fall would create chaos in Syria, Washington is considering a gradual transition in the country that would commence by creating the necessary conditions for fair elections.

Washington’s proposal to Moscow

In the meantime, as the Syrian National Coalition seems to be far from becoming a strong body that could lead an interim government, Washington proposed to Russia the joint preparation of a list of potential government officials who could lead the process. A separate body to provide security in the country is also being considered as part of the talks.

According to diplomatic sources, although it sounds good in theory, its implementation is unlikely to be possible as an agreement on whether or not the process will include al-Assad has not been reached.

Al-Khatib’s recent statement that they could talk to al-Assad has prompted questions. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selçuk Ünal described the possibility as hypothetical and said al-Assad had refused similar calls in the past.