Syrian crisis top issue in new Kerry visit to Turkey

Syrian crisis top issue in new Kerry visit to Turkey

Deniz Zeyrek ANKARA / Radikal
Syrian crisis top issue in new Kerry visit to Turkey

Top US diplomat Kerry (R) holds a press conferenc with his Ankara counterpart Davutoğlu in Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The international community’s efforts to topple Bashar al-Assad’s government will be the top issue during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s upcoming, third visit to Turkey in the last two months, the top American diplomat in Turkey has said.

“Obviously, the world community can’t do anything to help in Syria without working by, with and through Turkey. So it is a real partnership when it comes to trying to bring peace to that country,” Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, told daily Radikal late April 10. Kerry will participate in the core group of the Friends of Syrian People to be held on April 20 in Istanbul along with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and nine others.

The core group will review developments in Syria and will discuss ways to increase pressure on the Syrian government. Coordinating the Syrian opposition and pursuing more coherent diplomacy to end the violence and make a political transition possible in Syria will be on the agenda of the ministers.

“The main agenda item at the moment, the item with the most urgency, is how we try to stop the violence in Syria, stop the killing, help the Syrian people go back, not create any more Syrian refugees and bring relief to the Syrian refugees inside Syria and in Turkey. These are all subjects we talk about every day; from time to time, we discuss them at the ministerial level,” the ambassador said.

Touching on the al-Nusra Front’s recent statement that it had pledged alliance to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ricciardone said: “Al-Nusra is the al-Qaeda in Iraq. [On April 9], they declared that al-Nusra is part of them. So you can see our concern. Their activity is not to build, it is to destroy.”

Washington has already declared the al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization.

When asked whether Washington’s concerns were also shared by Ankara, Ricciardone said: “I don’t speak for the government of Turkey but from our conversations together, seriously, clearly. Both countries are really worried about spreading violence and sectarianism. That’s what al-Nusra is all about. Al-Nusra is not about to spread democracy to Syria or help with the democratic transition. They are about violence and sectarianism, and hate and extremism. And Turkey rejects all of that and so do we.”

Kerry’s visit comes just a few days after the White House said President Barack Obama would host Erdoğan on May 16 in Washington.

“If he [Kerry] comes back again before the prime minister goes to Washington, naturally we’ll be talking about the prime minister’s visit, I would think,” Ricciardone said.

Kerry is expected to meet with Davutoğlu on the sidelines of the Syria meeting where the two ministers will talk about the program and agenda of the upcoming Erdoğan-Obama meeting.