Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Saturday his country is willing to accept a role for Syrian President Bashar Assad during a transitional period but insisted he has no place in Syria’s future.
Speaking to foreign media representatives in Istanbul, the prime minister – whose foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made a surprise visit to Iran this week — also said that Turkey would aim to become more of a regional player with regard to Syria in the next six months.
“Could Syria carry Assad in the long-term? Certainly not,” Yildirim said. “The United States knows and Russia knows that Assad does not appear to be someone who can bring (the people) together.”
“There may be talks (with Assad) for the transition. A transition may be facilitated. But we believe that there should be no (Kurdish rebels), ISIS or Assad in Syria’s future,” he said.
Turkey, which is battling a Kurdish insurgency, is concerned about the growing power of Syrian Kurdish forces across the border and opposes any moves toward Kurdish autonomy or independence.
“We say the bloodshed needs to stop. Babies, children, innocent people should not die.”
“In the six months ahead of us, we shall be playing a more active role,” Yildirim said. “It means not allowing Syria to be divided along ethnic lines … ensuring that its government is not based on ethnic (divisions).”
Yildirim also denied news reports that Russia was seeking to use Turkey’s southern air base of Incirlik for its operations in Syria. The base is currently being used by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.
“They have no request for Incirlik,” Yildirim said. “I don’t think they have a need for Incirlik. Because they already have two bases in Syria.”
Since the July 15 failed putsch, Turkey has sought to work with Iran and Russia on Syria’s future and solving the crisis.
Although Russia and Iran are Assad’s main allies which puts them at loggerheads with Turkey, this month Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin while Tehran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif went to Ankara during which Syria was on the agenda.
Cavusoglu even called on Moscow on August 11 to carry out joint operations against ISIS in Syria — and made a surprise visit to Tehran on Thursday for talks on “regional issues,” according to Iranian state television.