Ankara (GPA) – As Turkey attempts to build relations across the Middle East, Ankara still can’t seem to declare a coherent policy on Syria.
In a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said he would be open to dialogue with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, it seems like this sentiment didn’t last long judging by yesterday’s comments from his Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim made the comments at a press conference alongside U.K. PM Theresa May.
According to Yildirim, “It’s too hard to forget the past, so it’s hard to see how Assad could possibly remain in office.” In Yildirim’s mind, it is Assad that “is responsible for the way things have evolved in Syria,” which according to the PM means it is not a “realistic prospect to build lasting peace in Syria with Assad.”
These comments are poorly timed, to say the least, as yet another round of Syria talks is slated to begin soon in Geneva. The comments also show how disconnected Turkish rhetoric for their domestic audience is separated from reality since even Turkish backed rebels in Syria claim they’re willing to negotiate without setting any preconditions.
While Erdogan may not be saying things like this in public, he has said in the past that his primary objective in Syria was removing Assad. It is unclear how what position Erdogan personally holds now, but it can’t be good that the man directly under him is trying to increase hostilities as Turkey joins with Iran and Russia to lead Syria negotiations.
It has also become more unclear what Turkey’s next steps in Syria would be following a call between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump. In this call last week, Trump and Erdogan apparently agreed the US would stop arming the Kurdish YPG, leading Erdogan to exclaim Ankara and Washington are finally “on the same wavelength.”
While the Turks may be necessary for the Syrian negotiation process, it’s unlikely they can both keep that privileged role as while also continuing hostilities towards Syria. Ankara will also have to be wary of trying to play Washington against Moscow further as the Syrian war draws to a close.