Turkey says doesn’t want either ISIL or Assad

Turkey says doesn’t want either ISIL or Assad

Akif Beki - NEW YORK
Turkey says doesn’t want either ISIL or Assad

DHA photo

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has made clear that his government cannot countenance the presence of either the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on its borders or the continuation of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, warning that a political transition that included al-Assad would inevitably turn into a permanent situation.

Davutoğlu, speaking with a group of journalists from Turkey during a visit to New York to attend a 70th anniversary session of the U.N. General Assembly, reiterated over the weekend his government’s aspirations to create safe zones in northern Syria.

“The only way of establishing the safe zone is by reinforcing the Free Syrian Army [FSA] and the moderate components,” Davutoğlu said, noting that ISIL, which earlier increased its attack capacity near Turkey’s borders, had recently pulled back. Now, it is time to push ISIL further south, he added.

“We don’t want to see either Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIL], or the Syrian regime on our borders,” he said. 

According to the prime minister, neither Iraqi nor Syrian Kurds are considered a “threat” by Turkey, but the constituents of both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) that “have engagements with the regime” are a “threat” for Turkey.

Davutoğlu elaborated on Ankara’s objection to the al-Assad regime with a retrospective look at his government’s Syria policy starting in 2011 when they exerted efforts to find a formula that would include rule by al-Assad. 

“However, after 2012, when air strikes and the use of chemical weapons started and a mass migration flow began, it was then understood that Syrians would not accept al-Assad. We said that a solution with al-Assad would not work,” Davutoğlu said. “We would accept anything that Syrians accept but it is not possible for Syrians to accept a formula with al-Assad. The presence of al-Assad deepens the crisis in Syria and expands the field for Daesh. Organizations like Daesh are filling the space which needs to be filled by the opposition,” he said, arguing that presences of al-Assad and ISIL had been “reinforcing” and “legitimizing” each other.

“At the moment, there is deadlock. We have the conviction that with al-Assad in charge during the transition period, that transition period would no longer be transitory. We believe that this situation would turn into a permanent status quo. Our conviction on this matter hasn’t changed,” he said.

Davutoğlu’s comments came days after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled that al-Assad could take part in the transition process to find a solution in Syria, albeit while adding that he could have no place in his country’s future.

“Either a transition process without al-Assad, or with al-Assad, is possible. But what is required is the opposition … Nobody can foresee Syria’s future with al-Assad. It’s not possible to accept a person responsible for killing 300,000 to 350,000 people, a dictator,” Erdoğan said Sept. 24.

Davutoğlu repeated Turkey’s concerns over Russia’s military buildup in Syria and said all related parties should take the issue as “an international problem,” rather than “a war in which different countries have been supporting different sides.”

“Everybody is being harmed by this and everybody is encountering the problem of terror and refugees. The common interest for all of us lies here: ending rising terror and resolving the refugee problem. Would al-Assad’s staying resolve the terror and refugee problems? No. The emergence of a transition administration that the sides agree on and afterwards, the transition to a democratic and pluralist civilian administration is a must. The emergence of a pluralist Syrian administration is a must,” Davutoğlu said.

When reminded of a recent statement by a U.S. official who said Washington did not consider the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the PYD, a terrorist organization, the prime minister said Ankara considers the PYD just like it considers the PKK.

“We expect the U.S. to take a principled stance. Al-Nusra is also fighting against Daesh. Does this situation legitimize al-Nusra? Likewise, fighting against Daesh doesn’t legitimize the PYD,” he said, adding that the PYD’s relationship with the PKK is continuing.