Turkey has made a surprising announcement, stating they are now ready to work with the warring factions and all international actors in the ongoing civil war in Syria. Furthermore, it is to ensure that peace is restored in the war-torn country.
Previously, Turkey has opposed the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. The Turkish government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said on several occasions that for peace to return to Syria, President Assad must first step down.
When Russia intervened in the war, aiding Assad, it marred a relationship between Russia and Turkey – Turkey even shot down a Russian military jet fighting for the Syrian government for violating its airspace. Some Western countries praised Turkey for defending its airspace. The International Coalition Forces, led by the United States in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, has used Turkey as a base to launch airstrikes against the group.
However, since the failed coup that was attempted in Turkey on July 15 this year, the country seems to be moving gradually from the Western alliance. Turkey has accused Western countries, especially the United States, for aiding and shielding the suspected lead character in the coup, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States. Turkey requested that the United States to extradite Gulen. Some Western countries on the other hand, have condemned Turkey for the unlawful crackdown on people suspected of taking part in the failed coup.
In early August 2016, President Erdogan met with President Putin in St Petersburg to normalize relations with Russia. The two heads of state vowed to restore an “axis of friendship,” pledging to restore diplomatic and economic ties.
In the latest news regarding Turkey’s foreign policy, the country has now abandoned its previous view on the war in Syria; that Assad must go first, which was largely shared by many Western countries.
The country’s Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim said on August 20, 2016 that Turkey is now prepared to play a “more active” role in the next six months – in efforts to end the war in Syria – without any pre-conditions.
Yildirim made this known to local and foreign journalists during a news briefing in Istanbul. He also said Turkey will do all it can to reduce the wave of instabilities in the Middle East.
“We say the bloodshed needs to stop. Babies, children, innocent people should not die. That’s why Turkey will be more active in trying to stop the danger getting worse in the next six months, compared with before,” he said at the news briefing.
According to Yildirim, Assad can now remain temporarily, during a transition period. He said Assad is one of the main actors who can ensure the devastating war is stopped in the country, and that he cannot be sidelined when talking about peace in Syria.
Yildirim also revealed that his country Iran, with Russia and the United States, must work toward a solution in Syria, to bring lasting peace.
He said: “That is our objective. We are not pessimistic. We have even left it late. Therefore, as Turkey, we will work more because the instability there pains us.”
The civil war in Syria is almost in its fifth year. Rebels backed by United States led Western countries, and Sunni countries in the Middle East, led by Saudi Arabia, want to remove the country’s president Bashar al-Assad from power.
Assad on the other hand, is supported by Russia and Iran. Especially with Russia behind him, his grip has tightened on the country, and is refusing to step down. Before Russia’s intervention in the war, ISIS and rebels had seized majority part of the country. However, recent Russian bombardments have allowed Assad’s troops to retake the majority of the lost territories, but the bombardments and the frequent shellings have affected the civilian population badly.
More than half of the country’s 22 million people have been forced out of their homes. Media estimates the death toll, since the war began in 2011, can be put at 280,000. However, recently the United Nations special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura estimated that the actual death toll could be as high as 400,000.
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