Tabnak – After having been silent for a while over the role of current Syrian leadership in the political transition process, Ankara has apparently moved back to the point zero, calling for Bashar al-Assad’s departure. Meanwhile, Russia and Iran are continuing to work on a national Syrian congress to be held in the near future.
Turkey’s leader denounced President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Wednesday as a “terrorist mass murderer” with no place in that country’s postwar future, scrapping a softened approach that Turkish officials had taken toward Assad in recent years.
According to Erdogan, it is "absolutely impossible" to move ahead on Syrian peace talks while Assad remains in power. He made the comments after a closed-door meeting with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis where he was on an official visit.
The New York Times notes that the statement by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey came as Assad seemed more confident than ever that he has won the war and will remain Syria’s leader for the foreseeable future. It also came against the backdrop of maneuvering by many powers — most notably Russia and Iran, Assad’s most important allies — to influence the political process.
Reacting to Erdogan’s claims, Syria's Foreign Ministry shot accused Erdogan of being "responsible" for spilling the blood of the Syrian people, according to a statement released by Syrian state-run news agency SANA. “The entry of the Turkish forces to the Syrian territory reveals one image of the Turkey's support to takfiri terrorism,” SANA said.
The statement slammed Erdogan's "paranoia and illusions of the past," which "made him forget that his old empire has vanished and that the free people of the world have the choice to make their national decisions and defend their sovereignty and they will not allow Erdogan to interfere in their affairs."
In a similar position, the US has also said a peaceful solution in Syria is not possible while Assad remains in power. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, while the US was "on guard against Russian aggression," the US was willing to work with Russia where "mutual interests intersect."
Meanwhile, Russia and Iran are trying to realize a congress of various Syrian factions to decide the country’s future. In this vein, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei discussed preparations for the Syrian National Dialogue Congress to be held in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported on Thursday.
"While discussing the Syrian settlement issue, [the parties] focused on close cooperation between Russia and Iran in light of the results of the international meeting on Syria in Astana and as part of preparations for the Syrian National Dialogue Congress to be held in Sochi on January 29-30, 2018," the ministry said.
Russia and Iran have been actively involved in the Syrian peace process, volunteering to act as ceasefire guarantors. Tehran and Moscow have demanded that President Assad’s role in Syria's future be determined by its people.