The battle for Damascus

The battle for Damascus

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
The battle for Damascus

This satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows a smoking buildings in Damascus as an image taken from a video uploaded to YouTube shows burning tires and trash containers in the al-Hajar al-Aswad district. Syria’s al-Assad (inset L) meets with his new Defense Minister Gen al-Freij who was appointed after his successor was killed. AP photo

In order to ease Moscow’s concerns about the future of “a Syria without its key ally [President Bashar] al-Assad,” Turkey voiced its readiness to work with Russia on a prospective post-al-Assad transition process, when the Russian and Turkish leaders met on July 18.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan highlighted the least common denominators between the two countries regarding the Syrian crisis, reaffirming the “principles of the Geneva meeting,” a Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

The principle of the Geneva meeting was to head toward “a transition government without al-Assad,” even if it was not expressly mentioned in the declaration, the official said. 

In response to Russia’s concerns about the composition of a new government in Syria, Turkey said the transition government should be composed of “members of the current regime and opposition who will endorse each other,” the official said. 

Both Ankara and Moscow apparently wanted to prevent their existing differences of opinion on Syria from having any negative effect on bilateral relations.

“If a new government is established and Bashar al-Assad remains in a position of leadership, nothing will change in Syria,” Erdoğan said, returning from Moscow. “I believe that the most important aspect of the Geneva process is the formation of a transitional government in Syria in which al-Assad would not be present.” 

Russia had some concerns about the post-al-Assad period, and Turkey proposed some alternatives, Erdoğan said, without giving any details. He added that Russia would consider those alternatives.

Putin had not discussed the possibility of taking al-Assad in, either in his talks with Erdoğan or in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama on July 18, Yuri Ushakov, a foreign policy adviser to Putin, said yesterday.