Turkish PM wishes Assad ‘didn’t return’ from Moscow visit
AA PhotoTurkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said a peaceful transition could start in Syria if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “stayed in Moscow,” where he flew on Oct. 20 evening to personally thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for his military support.
Speaking after a plenum of the Turkish Pensioners’ Association in Ankara on Oct. 21, Davutoğlu commented on al-Assad’s surprise visit to Moscow after Russia had launched a campaign of air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria in support for the Syrian regime’s forces.
Davutoğlu said al-Assad opted to oppress and persecute the Syrian people throughout 2011 in the face of continuous attempts by Turkey for a democratic transition process.
According to the prime minister, a transition period could be deemed successful only when the five million Syrian refugees feel the country is adequately peaceful to return. He argued this would only be possible if al-Assad left.
“We need to work on formulae” for al-Assad’s exit, he said, adding he wished al-Assad “didn’t return.”
“What can I say; I wish he stayed in Moscow for a longer period so the Syrian people could feel relieved. In fact, it would be better if he didn’t return and the transition period started,” Davutoğlu stated.
This was Assad's first foreign trip since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011.
The Kremlin kept the visit quiet until Oct. 21 morning, broadcasting a meeting between the two men in the Kremlin and releasing a transcript of an exchange they had. It did not say whether the Syrian leader was still in Moscow or had returned home.
Putin said he hoped progress on the military front would be followed by moves towards a political solution in Syria, bolstering Western hopes Moscow will use its increased influence on Damascus to cajole Assad into talking to his opponents.
Iran has also long been a strong Syrian government ally, and the fact that Assad chose to visit Moscow before Tehran is likely to be interpreted in some circles as a sign that Russia has now emerged as Assad's most important foreign friend.
Russian state TV made the meeting its top news item, showing Assad, dressed in a dark suit, talking to Putin, together with the Russian foreign and defence ministers.
The Kremlin has cast its intervention in Syria, its biggest in the Middle East since the 1991 Soviet collapse, as a common sense move designed to roll back 'international terrorism' in the face of what it says is ineffective action from Washington.
It is likely to use Assad's visit to buttress its domestic narrative that its air campaign is just and effective and to underline its assertion that the foray shows it has shaken off the Ukraine crisis to become a serious global player.