Turkey furious over US stance on Assad, Syria
ANKARA / PNOM PENH
AA PhotoRecent remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding possible negotiations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have prompted strong reactions from Ankara.
“What is there to negotiate [with al-Assad]?” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Phnom Penh on March 16 during a visit to Cambodia.
“How will you negotiate with a regime that has killed more than 200,000 people and used chemical weapons? What result have you been able to get from negotiations so far?” Çavuşoğlu said.
Speaking in an interview on March 15, Kerry did not repeat the long-held U.S. line that al-Assad had lost all legitimacy and must go.
“We have to negotiate in the end,” Kerry said. “We’ve always been willing to negotiate in the context of the Geneva I process,” he added, referring to a 2012 conference that called for a negotiated transition to end the conflict.
Kerry’s spokeswoman, however, later stressed that the comments indicated no change in U.S. policy, saying, “There is no future for a brutal dictator like al-Assad in Syria.”
Syria’s civil war is now into its fifth year, with hundreds of thousands killed and millions of Syrians displaced.
Kerry said Washington and other countries, which he did not name, were exploring ways to “reignite the diplomatic process” to end the conflict.
Çavuşoglu said the al-Assad government lay at the root of the violence in Syria.
“Syria’s transformation needs the current regime out and a new inclusive regime to take charge,” the foreign minister said.
Turkey has been critical of any attempts to co-opt the Syrian regime in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq over the past year. Among Turkey’s suggested solutions to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Syria are a no-fly zone and protected “safe zones” in Syria for refugees, as well as the removal of al-Assad, but Turkey’s proposals have failed to receive U.S. support.
Moving forward with the al-Assad regime will create more problems than it solves, Çavuşoğlu said, suggesting that it was the main supporter of terrorist groups in the region.
The Turkish foreign minister said international efforts must focus efforts on two major issues in Syria: Destroying terrorist groups including ISIL, and toppling the al-Assad regime to lead to a political transition.
Çavuşoğlu also reiterated his call on European countries to tighten their border controls to stop the flow of foreign fighters to Syria.
“The reasons behind these people’s decisions to join terrorist groups or [Syrian] regime forces should also be analyzed and a solution should be found,” he said. “If we receive the intelligence in time, we prevent such people from entering Turkey. But if someone decides to join a terror group, he or she will find a way, whether via Turkey or another way. Stopping such people before they leave [their own countries] is the most ideal method.”
Çavuşoğlu also touched on Shiite militants fighting in Iraq and warned that their activities could lead to clashes between Sunnis and Shiites in the country.