Turkey vows active role in Syria, better regional ties

Turkish prime minister said Ankara will play a more active role in Syria and repair its ties with regional powers.

Binali Yildirim in parliament
Yildirim said Turkey wants to repair its ties with Egypt, after relations soured over the ouster of president Morsi [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has vowed that Ankara will play a “more active” role in the next six months in efforts to end the five-year Syrian civil war and work towards normalising its relations with its neighbours in the Middle East. 

Yildirim said in a news briefing on Saturday that Ankara would step up efforts to reduce “instability” in the region.

“We say the bloodshed needs to stop. Babies, children, innocent people should not die. That’s why Turkey will be more active in trying to stop the danger getting worse in the next six months, compared with before,”
Yildirim told foreign reporters in Istanbul.

‘No role to play in Syria’s future’

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can remain temporarily during a transition period as “he is one of the actors today no matter whether we like it or not,” Yildirim said.

WATCH: Turkey proposes roadmap to end Syria war

But the premier stressed that Assad has “no role to play in Syria’s future”.

“We believe that the PKK, Daesh and Assad should not be in the future of Syria,” he added, referring to the Syrian Kurds and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in the war-torn country.

Yildirim said instead that Turkey, Iran, Russia and the United States must work towards a solution in Syria.

“That is our objective. We are not pessimistic. We have even left it late. Therefore, as Turkey, we will work more because the instability there pains us.”

Turkey wants to ‘repair ties’ with old allies

Since last month’s failed coup attempt , Turkey has been unhappy with the West’s muted response to the incident and frustrated with continued criticism of its human rights record.

As a result, it sought to work with Iran and Russia on Syria’s future and solving the crisis. 

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Although Russia and Iran are Assad’s main allies which put them at loggerheads with Turkey, this month Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin while Tehran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came to Ankara.

Prime Minister Yildirim told reportes on Saturday that Turkey wants to normalise relations with other old allies, like Israel and Egypt.

Turkey’s parliament approved a reconciliation agreement signed with Israel in June which has brought to an end a six-year rift between the two regional powers, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

Relations between Israel and Turkey crumbled after Israeli marines stormed a Turkish ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turks on board.

READ MORE: Will the Turkey-Israel deal end Gaza’s siege?

Israel, which had already offered its apologies for the raid, agreed under the deal to pay out $20 million to the bereaved and wounded in return for Turkey dropping outstanding legal claims.

Under the deal, the naval blockade of Gaza, which Ankara had wanted lifted, remains in force, although humanitarian aid can continue to be transferred to Gaza via Israeli ports.

Turkey and Russia have reached a clear consensus on normalising ties earlier this month. [Ivan Sekreterav/Reuters]
Turkey and Russia have reached a clear consensus on normalising ties earlier this month. [Ivan Sekreterav/Reuters]

Yildirim also said that Turkey wants to repair its ties with Egypt, after relations soured over the deposing of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, had been a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party-led (AKP) government.

“We think we need to develop economic and cultural ties with Egypt as countries that use the two sides of the Mediterranean,” Yildirim told reporters.

OPINION: What Egyptians can learn from Turkey’s failed coup

However, he sounded a note of caution that high-level relations would not be repaired overnight. 

“We think we need to start from somewhere,” he said.

Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, one of the main backers of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is keen to see the two countries reconciled as it grows increasingly close to Turkey. 

US is a ‘strategic partner’ not an ‘enemy’

Yildirim also insisted that the United States was Turkey’s “strategic partner, not our enemy” despite Ankara’s anger at Washington for failing to extradite Fethullah Gulen, whom it blames for last month’s failed coup.

Inside Story – Can Turkey and Russia be allies?

“There can be ups and downs in the two countries’ relations [but] we need to remove elements that harm our relations,” Yildirim told journalists in Istanbul, referring to the Pennsylvania-based cleric.

Ankara has for years accused Gulen of running a “parallel state” in Turkey and it blamed him for ordering the failed coup attempt of July 15.

Ankara had previously suggested that any failure to deliver Gulen would severely damage bilateral ties and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said it was up to Washington to extradite him to prevent “anti-US feeling” in Turkey turning into “hate”.

OPINION: Could Turkey turn its back to the West?  

The White House has confirmed that US Vice President Joe Biden will visit Ankara next week in the highest-ranking visit to Turkey by any Western official since the coup. 

Yildirim also confirmed a technical delegation would arrive on August 22 for talks with Turkey’s judicial authorities ahead of Biden’s visit.

“I hope this process will be finalised in a way favoured by both countries, and [that] questions in the minds of Turkish people about America will be removed.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies