MANAF TLASS – THE COMING LEADER / Fugitive Syria chief in talks with Turkey

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 4.8.2012 – Senior Syrian defector Brigadier Gen. Manaf Tlass was again in Ankara on Aug. 3, in order to hold an unannounced meeting with a senior foreign ministry official. Following his quick visit on July 26, the latest meeting was the second time Tlass had visited Ankara, as part of his efforts to obtain a role in the post-Assad era in Syria.

Tlass, who flew to Ankara from Istanbul late on Aug. 3 afternoon, held a lengthy meeting at the foreign ministry headquarters, the Daily News has learned from a reliable source.

Speaking on condition of anonymity following the meeting, a senior diplomat confirmed that Tlass had met with a senior foreign ministry official. The source, however, declined to give the name of this senior official. The same diplomat also declined to either confirm or deny whether Tlass would also meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu later in the day.On July 26, Tlass had dinner with Davutoğlu, Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan and senior foreign ministry officials. Turkish officials have so far abstained from declaring clear support for Tlass, but in principle Turkey believes in the advantage of a figure who has had experience in Syria for many years, rather than dissidents who have been exiled for a long period of time. Turkey has also said that not a single international or national actor believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will keep his position.

“Everybody has started making plans for the [post-al-Assad] period,” Davutoğlu said July 27 in a televised interview.