The Turkish foreign minister says a “permanent solution” to the ongoing conflict in Syria cannot be achieved without the participation of Iran and Russia.
“Without Russia’s contribution, there cannot be a permanent solution in Syria. We keep saying this. The same goes for Iran, too, with which we also have to boost our relations in this regard,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with the Russian Sputnik new agency.
The minister also ruled out any “military solution” to the ongoing crisis in Syria.
“Unfortunately, the situation in Syria is getting worse. These problems cannot be solved in the short term through fighting alone. They cannot be solved single-handedly, either. That is why, we have to work together for a political solution and a ceasefire,” Cavusoglu said.
The top Turkish diplomat noted that Turkey and Russia may have “differences of opinion,” but the essential aim is to bring mutual relations “to a level that is even better than before.”
Media reports indicate that Ankara could change its stance towards Syria and form an alliance with Russia and Iran to battle terrorists in Syria.
On July 13, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country aims to develop good relations with Syria and Iraq.
Since taking office in May, Yildirim has repeatedly said that Turkey needs to “increase its friends and decrease its enemies,” an apparent tacit admission that past policies have left Ankara sidelined.
Turkey has long been a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, allowing militants to freely slip into the Arab country through its borders. The policy had put Turkey on a collision course with Syria’s allies, including Iran and Russia.
The apparent change of policy comes in the wake of recent Turkish efforts to warm relations with Russia, which is a key supporter of the Syrian government.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova at a press conference in Moscow on Thursday said that Russia has begun “thoughtful” work on Syria with Turkey despite having substantial disagreements over the issue.
“We have started to work in detail and thoughtfully on the Syrian issue with the Turkish side. We consider this work to be constructive and positive,” she added.
On August 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart in Moscow expressed hope that the two countries’ differences over the crisis in Syria would be resolved.
The visit was the first meeting between the two leaders since relations broke down in November last year, when Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft over Syria. It was also Erdogan’s first foreign trip since the failed coup in Turkey on July 15.
Iran and Russia assist the Syrian government in its fight against foreign-backed terrorist groups, including Daesh.
Russia has been conducting airstrikes against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria at the Syrian government’s request since September 2015. Iran has also been providing advisory assistance to the Syrian government.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The United Nations estimates that over 400,000 people have so far been killed in the conflict.
NATO ‘not fully cooperative’
Elsewhere in his remarks, Cavusoglu lashed out at NATO, saying the Western military alliance is not fully cooperating with Ankara.
The Turkish minister stressed that Ankara has become alarmed at the lack of willingness shown by NATO to cooperate with Turkey, which is a member of the alliance.
“It seems to us that NATO members behave in an evasive fashion on issues such as the exchange of technology and joint investments. Turkey intends to develop its own defense industry and strengthen its defense system.”
Cavusoglu also said relations with NATO were not as satisfactory as he would have wished.
“Turkey wanted to cooperate with NATO members up to this point,” the minister said, adding, “But the results we got did not satisfy us. Therefore, it is natural to look for other options. But we don’t see this as a move against NATO.”
The remarks come against the backdrop of growing tensions between the West and Ankara over Turkey’s crackdown following the failed coup.