Turkey Can No Longer Insist on Syria Settlement Without Assad: Turkish Deputy PM

(Reuters) – 21 Jan 2017 –  Turkey can no longer insist on a resolution of the conflict in Syria without the involvement of President Bashar al-Assad, as the situation on the ground has changed dramatically, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Friday.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 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. Turkey and Russia brokered a ceasefire in Syria which has largely held in the run-up to the Astana talks, a process which follows the defeat of the Syrian opposition in the northern city of Aleppo last month.

Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Daren Butler.