ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey supports a political solution for Syria but retains its “red lines” on the subject of Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining president, a top Turkish ruling party official said Thursday.
During a trilateral meeting with Russia and Iran in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday, Turkey made clear its “reservations” about Assad having any future role in Syria “after all these deaths,” Mahir Unal, the spokesman of the Justice and Development Party, told reporters.
Turkey also emphasized at the Sochi meeting, Unal said, that there must be negotiations between Assad and the opposition, which Ankara has supported from the start of Syria’s civil war, now in its seventh year.
“It’s not within the logic of negotiations to have a precise position today on the political solution and on whether the transition will be with or without Assad,” Unal said, adding that Turkey, Russia and Iran would act as “facilitators” in negotiations.
He also said that Turkey remains adamantly opposed to Syrian Kurdish fighters participating in negotiations — another red line — while at the same time supporting Syria’s territorial unity.
The US-backed Syrian Kurds have battled the Islamic State group in Syria and now control a significant stretch of territory. However, Ankara considers them a terror group and an extension of the Kurdish insurgency with Turkey’s own borders.
In Sochi, the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran on Wednesday discussed ways to promote a peaceful settlement in Syria, including the return of refugees, humanitarian aid and prisoners’ exchange.
Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that political settlement will require concessions from all sides, including Assad’s government. The Syrian president had made a surprise trip to Sochi late on Monday for talks with Putin, which the Kremlin said were intended to lay the groundwork for Wednesday’s trilateral meeting.
“We have reached a consensus on helping the transition to an inclusive, free, fair and transparent political process that will be carried out under the leadership and ownership of the Syrian people,” Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after the meeting.
Even though Russia and Iran have backed Assad’s government since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, while Turkey has supported his foes, the three countries have teamed up to help mediate a peace settlement.
Russia will be hosting a meeting in Sochi that is expected to bring the opposition and Syrian government together in early December.