Syria: Has Turkey changed its attitude towards Assad regime?

Russia media quoted a Turkish diplomat saying that his country now sees that there no way to solve the crisis in Syria without Assad in power, as questions were raised about Turkey’s future attitude towards Assad regime.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that that Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government had signed a number of documents including a ceasefire deal that will be guaranteed by Turkey and Russia.

The documents include a ceasefire agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition, measures to monitor the ceasefire deal and a statement on the readiness to start peace talks to settle the Syrian crisis, Putin said.

Russia and Iran both back Assad, but Turkey, a NATO member, has long made clear it would prefer him to step down. Ankara has however sought to fix its relation with Russia in recent months after the coup attempt as the west abandoned its relations with Turkey.

The three countries said they were ready to help broker a Syria peace deal after the three countries held talks in Moscow on Tuesday and adopted a new declaration.

This new relation included Turkey’s moderation of its rhetoric on Assad, changing the goal of its military operation in Syria, decreasing its support for the armed Syrian opposition, and playing a major role in bringing the Syrian opposition to one table with Assad through the newly made agreement as the new agreement shows.

A new tone?

Turkey has long insisted that Assad must go for sustainable peace to be achieved in Syria. But it has become less insistent on his immediate departure since its recent rapprochement with Russia, which backs the Syrian leader, and ahead of peace talks planned in Kazakhstan next week.

“As far as our position on Assad is concerned, we think that the suffering of (the) Syrian people and the tragedies, clearly the blame is squarely on Assad. But we have to be pragmatic, realistic,” Simsek told a panel on Syria and Iraq at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“The facts on the ground have changed dramatically, so Turkey can no longer insist on a settlement without Assad, it’s not realistic,” he said.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman also said last week that Turkey still believes a united and peaceful Syria is impossible with Assad, but wants to proceed “step-by-step” and see the outcome of the peace talks in Astana.

However, Simsek said his comments quoted by Russian Sputnik news agency at the World Economic Forum in Davos did not reflect the truth and his remarks were “distorted”.

“I do not have any comment on Assad. That was totally distorted. This was interpretation of an international [news] agency,” Simsek told Anadolu Agency.

“I told this; if there is a [person] responsible for the human tragedy in Syria, that is Assad. I told it was impossible to accept a state where he is in [power],” the deputy prime minister added.

In his remarks, Simsek said the top priority was to end the human tragedy in the conflict-hit country.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.