Turkey believes that a united and peaceful Syria would not be possible as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains in power. The Middle East nation has been ravaged by a civil war between anti-government rebel forces and the Assad regime for more than five years.
"Our position on Assad is clear. We don't believe that a united, peaceful Syria will be possible with Assad remaining in power," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, said in Ankara on Friday (13 January).
Turkish forces are supporting Syrian rebel factions in their fight against Assad, while the Syrian president is receiving Russia's backing in crushing the civil war. The clashes have created a major humanitarian crisis in the region, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their houses and forced to seek refuge in other parts of the world – mainly Europe.
Several countries in the West, including the US, have been urging Russia to use its influence on the Assad regime to bring the years-long war to an end. Recently, Russia succeeded in brokering a ceasefire between the warring troops to enable humanitarian groups to provide aid to the people affected by the war.
Erdogan's spokesperson told reporters that following the ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey on behalf of the Assad regime and rebel forces, respectively, fighting has largely stopped in Syria for the past few weeks.
Kalin added that Turkey was willing to engage in further talks with Russia on Syria. The two parties are due to hold peace talks in Astana – the capital city of Kazakhstan – soon. "But we will see how Astana talks go, we want to go step by step at this point," Kalin noted, ARA News reported.
The humanitarian crisis in Syria was compounded after Islamic State (Isis) captured key areas in the war-torn country in 2014 to establish its so-called Islamic caliphate. The Assad regime and the rebel forces are also fighting a war against the Islamist militants, further leading to displacements and destruction.