BY DAILY SABAH
Türkiye has always backed a political solution to the Syrian conflict, the Turkish foreign minister said on Tuesday.
“The (Syrian) regime does not believe in a political solution, it believes in a military solution. A permanent solution is a political solution. We’ve been saying it from the beginning,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a joint news conference with his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevics in the capital Ankara.
Türkiye believes that reconciliation is essential for lasting peace in Syria, he said, adding that Ankara strongly supports Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Çavuşoğlu also noted that it is not the first time that the regime and the opposition in Syria have come together. “We have made a very important contribution to this. Why? Because the opposition trusts us. We have never let the opposition down. We say that this reconciliation is essential for lasting peace and stability in Syria.”
Commenting on a recent attempt to burn the Turkish flag in northern Syria, the minister said: “We know who the perpetrators are. The hands of those who reach out to our flag will also be broken. The Syrians themselves have already made the necessary explanations, including the interim government. They also know these provocateurs.” Earlier, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that two people were arrested following the incident.
Regarding the PKK terrorist group, Çavuşoğlu said: “There is a terrorist organization in Syria that also threatens us: PKK/PYD/YPG. (They are) the same terrorist organization. These terrorists and the remnants of Daesh and other radical terrorist organizations must be completely cleared from this country,” he said, adding that it is important for Türkiye’s safety and Syria’s stability.
Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that he had a brief talk with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in October in Serbia’s capital Belgrade while the Foreign Ministry underlined Friday that Türkiye will continue to show solidarity with the people of Syria and pursue efforts to find a permanent solution to the Syrian crisis.
“We need to bring the opposition and regime together for reconciliation somehow, there will be no permanent peace otherwise,” the top diplomat said while addressing reporters on the last day of the 13th Ambassadors Conference in Türkiye’s capital Ankara.
Çavuşoğlu stressed the need for a strong central administration to prevent the disintegration of Syria, highlighting that this would only be possible with unity. “The will that can dominate every corner of its lands can only be achieved through unity and solidarity,” he added.
The short encounter marks the first time the top Turkish diplomat has interacted with a Syrian official as Türkiye has backed moderate opposition groups against the Bashar Assad regime since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011. Also, Turkish forces have carried out several cross-border operations to clear its border from the occupation of the PKK terrorist group’s Syrian affiliate, the YPG, and the Daesh terrorist group in order to provide national border security and create a stable environment for local people living near Turkish borders.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said Friday that Türkiye is the country that has made the most effort to find a solution to the Syrian conflict in line with the legitimate expectations of the people.
Responding to a question about Türkiye’s approach to the Syrian conflict, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said in a statement: “In this context, Türkiye played a leading role in maintaining the cease-fire on the ground and establishing the Constitutional Committee through the Astana and Geneva processes, and gave full support to the opposition and the Negotiation Committee in the political process.”
Bilgiç said the Syrian regime has been dragging out the political process, adding that the views expressed by Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu on Thursday also pointed to this.
In July, Türkiye, Russia and Iran pledged to maintain cooperation in Syria to decisively defeat terrorist organizations in the region. The Astana meeting was initiated by Türkiye, Iran and Russia to bring the warring sides in Syria together to find a permanent solution to the decadelong war. The main agenda items have been the constitutional system, political transition, security and resettlement. The first Astana meeting was held in Türkiye in January 2017 to facilitate United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.
A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in December 2015 unanimously endorsed a road map to peace in Syria that was approved in Geneva on June 30, 2012, by representatives of the U.N., the Arab League, the European Union, Türkiye and all five permanent Security Council members – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.
It calls for a Syrian-led political process starting with the establishment of a transitional governing body, followed by the drafting of a new constitution and ending with U.N.-supervised elections. The resolution says the free and fair elections should meet “the highest international standards” of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians – including members of the diaspora – eligible to participate.
Syria has been mired in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity. U.N. estimates show that more than 8 million Syrians have either been internally displaced or become refugees in other countries since 2011. The Syrian regime held presidential elections in May in which authorities say Assad won 95.1% of the votes.