Ankara, Oct 22 () - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, discussed the surprise visit to Moscow by embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by telephone on Oct. 21 after the latter made his first official international trip since the civil war broke out in Syria over four years ago.
“The situation in Syria was discussed” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. “In this context, the leader of Russia informed his Turkish counterpart about the results of Syrian President al-Assad’s visit to Moscow.”
Erdoğan expressed his concerns over the Syrian military’s recent strikes in Aleppo and its environs, which he said could trigger a new wave of refugees, according to Turkish sources.
Davutoğlu wishes al-Assad would have stayed in Moscow
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said a peaceful transition could have started in Syria if al-Assad had “stayed in Moscow,” where he flew on Oct. 20 evening to personally thank Russian President Putin for his military support.
“What can I say? If only he would stay longer in Moscow, so the Syrian people could be at ease, or if only he could stay there permanently so that a real transition period could begin,” he said.
Speaking after a plenum of the Turkish Pensioners’ Association in Ankara on Oct. 21, Davutoğlu commented on al-Assad’s surprise visit to Moscow after Russia had launched a campaign of air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria in support for the Syrian government’s forces.
He wished the Syrian leader would have stayed in Russia and leave his people in peace, Davutoğlu added.
A transition was needed in Syria which guaranteed the departure of al-Assad, adding there was no change in Turkey’s position that his government had lost legitimacy.
“We think the Syrian government has no legitimacy left and our thoughts on this subject have not changed ...There must be a transition in Syria which ensures al-Assad’s departure,” Davutoğlu said Oct. 21, adding that Turkey would only support a transition process accepted by the Syrian people.
“Russia has already openly displayed its support with its intervention,” he said, when asked about al-Assad’s Moscow trip.
“It doesn’t matter what is now being discussed behind closed doors. What matters is ensuring a transition period during which the Syrian people will have confidence that peace has come to this country. Even if everybody agrees and offers a proposal, as long as more than 5 million Syrian refugees, 2,200,000 of whom migrated to Turkey, are inclined to return their country as saying ‘Peace is coming to my country,’ that peace, that transition period cannot possibly be a transition period in real terms,” Davutoğlu said.
He was responding to questions from reporters after senior government officials said on Oct. 20 that Ankara was ready to accept a political transition in which al-Assad remains in symbolic power for six months before leaving office.
Davutoğlu’s remarks come as Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu is expected to participate in a possible meeting in Vienna with the foreign ministers of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the U.S. to discuss the crisis in Syria and the need for a political transition to end the conflict.