Turkish FM in hectic phone diplomacy on Syria as truce takes hold in Aleppo

Turkish FM in hectic phone diplomacy on Syria as truce takes hold in Aleppo

Emine Kart - ANKARA
Turkish FM in hectic phone diplomacy on Syria as truce takes hold in Aleppo

AP photo

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has apparently been involved in hectic telephone diplomacy on the Syrian conflict as the Syrian army has, under pressure from Russia and the United States, agreed to respect a two-day truce in the war-ravaged city of Aleppo.

Çavuşoğlu held separate telephone conversations with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia and the U.K. late on May 4, Turkish diplomatic sources have said. 

It was not yet clear which side initiated the telephone conversation between Çavuşoğlu and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubair, but officials have confirmed that the Turkish side requested a telephone conversation with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. 

“The meeting schedule in the forthcoming period and regional developments, Syria being in the first place, came on agenda of the conversation between Mr. Çavuşoğlu and Mr. Jubair,” the same diplomatic sources told Hürriyet Daily News.

“Updated developments in Syria and the meeting schedule regarding Syria for the forthcoming period have been dealt with during the conversation between Mr. Çavuşoğlu and Mr. Hammond,” the sources, speaking under customary condition of anonymity, said.

The diplomatic sources could not elaborate on whether a “regime of calm” in the Syrian city of Aleppo that came into effect at 1 a.m. for 48 hours were subject to the phone calls held between Çavuşoğlu and his Saudi and British counterparts.

As of May 5, relative calm prevailed in Aleppo following a U.S.-Russian agreement to extend a cessation of hostilities that had crumbled after nearly two weeks of violence between rebels and government forces killed dozens, as Syrian state media said the army would abide by the “regime of calm,” Reuters reported.

A spokesman for the mainstream Syrian opposition said the Saudi-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC) supported the deal but wanted a cessation of hostilities that would cover all of Syria, not just Aleppo. It also blamed the government for violating the truce. 

Late last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that Turkey exercises a “decisive influence” on the HNC, which has been involved in peace talks led by the U.N. with the Damascus government.

“In order to come to terms over six months, it is necessary not to slam the door and dig heels in,” Lavrov said, adding that “it’s no secret” that Turkey has a “decisive influence” on the organization.

Lavrov’s remarks came as a weakening of the truce led to a crisis in intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva, brokered by the United Nations, where opposition leadership walked out in protest in mid-April amid government air strikes on hospitals and marketplaces.

“So one should not come for talks with ultimatums but should sit down at the negotiating table and reach an agreement,” Lavrov added, noting that the situation at the U.N.-brokered talks could have been better if the HNC had not left the negotiating table.