Turkey agrees for Syria’s political transition involving Assad
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Syria in which President Bashar al-Assad may have won US led war on Syria but at huge cost: the country is in shambles, fully destabilized, defunct. In doing so, Assad has definitely put him above the nation and people of Syria and he in fact gambled with the lives of Syrians because he thought he has the prerogative to use people to protect him and prolong stay in power, come what may. He has behaved like a little naughty stubborn boy and not as a statesman.
As Russia sold him weapons and protected him by using its UN veto, Assad is still alive. But he is finding it increasingly difficult to continue as president for ever as he seeks because of several wars going on in the country.
NATO member Turkey has long been one of Assad’s fiercest critics, insisting that no lasting peace can be achieved in Syria without his removal from power. As part of the US led coalition Turkey opposed Assad regime but all its efforts to remove Assad from power also failed.
Now Turkey announced it is ready to accept a political transition in Syria in which President Bashar al-Assad remains in symbolic power for six months before leaving office. Turkish officials told Reuters that work on a plan for Assad’s departure is underway and Assad can stay for six more months and there will be a guarantee of his departure after that. “We have moved forward on the issue to a certain degree with the United States and our other allies. There is not an exact consensus on when the six month period would begin, but we think it won’t be too long.”
Turkey has agreed to a plan under which Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad will remain in power for the next six months during a transition period, according to a report in the Turkish media. The plan, which has been agreed upon by the US and several European and Gulf states, envisages a “temporary administrative organ” to run Syria’s government in a bid to protect the Arab country’s state institutions. Support for such a move would mean Turkey backtracking on its policy to ensure Assad is removed from power ever since an uprising in Syria that started in the spring of 2011 and turned into a full-fledged civil war.
Turkey joins a group of 9 countries that have agreed Assad will remain as a “symbolic president” for six months and Turkey will participate in efforts to persuade Russia to support the plan, according to a report in the Cumhuriyet daily. The report — based on information given by a “top official” — claims that Turkey has accepted a “five- or six-point” plan and aims for Assad to relinquish his power over the intelligence and defense capabilities of Syria.
According to the source, the issue of Assad staying on as a symbolic president came about when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sept. 22 for the inauguration of a mosque in Moscow.
A day after his meeting with Putin, Erdogan said that a solution including Assad was possible for the duration of the transition process, indicating a policy U-turn in Turkey’s stance regarding the situation in Syria. “It is possible that this transition process will be without Assad or it may continue with Assad. However, nobody sees a future with Assad in Syria. It is impossible for Syrians to accept a dictator who caused the deaths of up to 350,000 people,” Erdogan said on Sept. 24 in Istanbul. However, one day later, Erdogan changed his stance again, claiming that his remarks that Assad might be part of a transition process did not mean a change in his policy on Syria, insisting that a long-term solution involving Assad is not possible.
European nations have struggled to find a common position on the role Assad should play in the solution of the Syrian crisis. France is keen to see Assad go as soon as possible, while Germany would prefer to have him involved in the transitional phase before he quits.
Britain wants Assad to leave power “at some point” as part of any deal by world powers to end the four-year-old conflict, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
The USA will put the proposal to Russia, but it was not clear whether Moscow would entertain the idea. Three weeks ago, Russia launched air strikes in support of Assad against insurgents fighting him.
When asked about speculation that his remarks on Sept. 24 represent a change in policy, Erdogan dismissed the comments as “intentional efforts” by his critics to frame him and said his Syria stance has remained the same ever since he was prime minister. Assad is a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiia Islam, whose members are a minority in both Syria and Turkey.
Assad said in an interview with Iranian television aired on Oct. 4 that it was not up to any foreign official to decide Syria’s future, including any transitional period mooted. “The future political system, and which individuals govern Syria, this is a decision for the Syrian people. That’s why these statements don’t concern us,” he said. He equates people of Syria with himself.
Former foreign minister Yasar Yakıs claimed fixation on Assad has isolated Turkey. “It is an important development for Turkey that it has abandoned its determination to get rid of Assad and has agreed on an interim period with Assad in place. It is all very well to say the truth but Turkey’s persistence and fixation on getting rid of Assad] has isolated it,” he said.
Yakıs, who is also one of the founders of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said Turkey cannot have a say in what happens after the interim period. “If Russia says, ‘Well, the people of Syria are going to decide what happens now,’ Turkey must abide by that because [then-Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu said the same thing before the civil war started,” Yakıs said. Yakıs added that Davutoglu told Assad: “Bring democracy to your country. If your people then choose you, continue; if not, then go down in history as the person who brought democracy to your country.” The former foreign minister challenged Erdogan’s insistence that Assad will not play a role in Syria’s future, saying, “If the Syrian people decide to continue with Assad, then there is not much Turkey can object to.”
Russian jets have flown more than 600 combat sorties since the start of the air campaign. Putin recently told a meeting of leaders of ex-Soviet nations in Kazakhstan that Russian air strikes have killed hundreds of militants in Syria since Russia began its involvement in the war in late September. The Russian president recently reaffirmed that the Russian bombing blitz against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other radicals in Syria will continue “for the duration of the Syrian regime’s troops’ offensive operations against the terrorists.”
According to security analyst and academic Professor Sedat Laçiner Russia’s involvement in Syria has changed the situation completely and that “Turkey’s Syria policy has been utterly destroyed.”“The equation in Syria has become too big for Turkey to make a difference,” he said. “The Assad regime is stronger, now that Russia is in the picture. The rebels Turkey supports are retreating.” “It is apparent that Turkey is not a determinative factor,” Laçiner, a professor of international relations, added. “Turkey cannot diverge from an agreement approved by the US and Russia and supported by the EU on the involvement of Assad in the future of Syria.”
Clearly, Russia is trying for an interim government with or without Assad in it but Turkey does not want Assad being a part of new political arraignment in Damascus. President Erdogan says Syria would be peaceful once Assad agrees to stay out of power. Assad has done enough harm to Syria with his adamant attitude.
Syrians have a right to live in peace and prosperity.