FM Çavuşoğlu meets with Syrian opposition leaders in Ankara

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday hosted Syrian opposition leaders in the capital Ankara for talks.

Çavuşoğlu met with Salem al-Meslet, President of the National Coalition, Badr Jamous, Head of the Negotiations Committee, and Abdulrahman Mustafa, Prime Minister of the Provisional Government.

“We appreciate and support the opposition’s contribution to the political process within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Çavuşoğlu stressed that steps must be taken for a lasting peace in Syria, adding that the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad should not consider the opposition as terrorists.

“From the start, Türkiye said the most important process was the political process,” he said.

Türkiye backed opposition groups fighting to overthrow the Assad regime and sever diplomatic ties with Damascus at the start of the 11-year conflict.

But the Russian intervention helped the Assad regime push the opposition back into a pocket of northwestern Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after talks in Russia earlier this month that President Vladimir Putin had suggested that Türkiye cooperate with the Syrian regime in tackling violence along their common border.

Erdoğan warned that Türkiye could launch another military operation in northern Syria targeting the Syrian branch of the PKK terror group, the YPG, to expand a “safe zone” where Ankara says some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees she currently hosts could return.

Asked last week about possible talks with Damascus, Erdoğan reportedly said diplomacy between states can never be completely broken. It is “necessary to take further steps with Syria”, he said.

Türkiye’s goal in Syria is not to defeat Assad but to find a political solution to the country’s decade-long crisis, Erdoğan said recently.

A United Nations Security Council resolution adopted in December 2015 unanimously endorsed a roadmap for peace in Syria which was endorsed in Geneva on 30 June 2012 by representatives of the United Nations (UN), the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey and the five permanent members of the Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain.

It calls for a Syrian-led political process beginning with the creation of a transitional governing body, followed by the drafting of a new constitution and ending with UN-supervised elections. The resolution says free and fair elections must meet the “highest international standards” of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians – including members of the diaspora – eligible to participate.

Syria has been mired in a fierce civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity. UN estimates show that more than 8 million Syrians have been internally displaced or have become refugees in other countries since 2011. The Syrian regime held presidential elections in May in which the authorities said Assad had won 95.1% of the vote.

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