Turkey, US agree ‘al-Assad should go for a free Syria’

WASHINGTON – Zaman – 17.5.2013 – Turkey and Syria agreed that a democratic process without Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was needed for a democratic transition of the war-torn country, U.S. President Barack Obama said today in a press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“We [referring to Erdoğan] both agree al-Assad needs to go,” Obama said following a meeting the Turkish premier that lasted more than two hours.  Obama also offered his condolences over deadly Reyhanlı attacks and said his country would always be on Turkey’s side in its efforts to fight terrorism.

“We will continue to increase the pressure on al-Assad regime and we will continue to work with the opposition,” the U.S. president said, who also thanked Turkey and Turkish people “for the hospitality shown to the Syrian refugees.”

Turkey will also play a major role in efforts to bring together all sides of the conflict at a planned international conference to be held soon, adding that efforts will continue to create a Syria “free from al-Assad’s tyranny.” Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan said the meeting was a milestone in Turkey-U.S. relations. He also emphasized that Syria was on the top of the agenda of the meeting.  “During the talks we saw that our thoughts on the process until today and on what can be done from now on overlapped,” Erdoğan said, adding that backing the opposition, preventing the use of chemical weapons respect of the minorities’ rights were the main priorities.

Working dinner on Syria

Regarding his previous statements on the use of chemical weapons as the U.S. government’s “red line,” Obama told reporters that he preserved the option to take additional steps but those would not be unilateral.

“There are a whole range of options that the United States is already engaged in. And I preserve the options of taking additional steps, both diplomatic and military, because those chemical weapons inside of Syria also threaten our security over the long term as well as our allies and friends and neighbors,” he said, adding that the Syrian conflict was an international problem.

“It’s very much my hope to continue to work with all the various parties involved, including Turkey, to find a solution that brings peace to Syria, stabilizes the region, stabilizes those chemical weapons, but it’s not going to be something that the United States does by itself, and I don’t think anybody in the region, including the prime minister, would think that U.S. unilateral actions in and of themselves would bring about a better outcome inside of Syria.”

Erdoğan said both countries were sharing all information regarding the use of chemical weapons and missiles in Syria.

“I want to see the glass half full. We want to see the sensibility of the international community. I believe that the United States is showing efforts [in Syria]. We will work to [find a quicker solution] with members of the U.N. Security Council, of the Arab League or other countries who show their sensibility even if they are outside [the region],” Erdoğan said adding that Turkey’s goal was to end the violence in its neighboring country. “The only thing that we want is to save Syria from an autocratic regime and a dictatorship.” Erdoğan said they would continue to discuss the Syria issue with Obama during a working dinner May 16. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama’s National Security adviser Thomas Donilon are also expected to participate in the dinner.