No longer ‘realistic’ to exclude Assad from Syria deal: Turkey

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Davos

Turkey said on Friday it was no longer “realistic” to insist on a solution to the Syria conflict without President Bashar al-Assad.
Ankara acknowledged last year that Assad is an actor in Syria but it is the first time a senior Turkish official has openly said it would be unrealistic to insist on the embattled leader’s departure for any solution.
“We have to be pragmatic, realistic. The facts on the ground have changed dramatically,” Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told a panel on Syria at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Turkey can no longer insist on a settlement without Assad. It is not realistic.” Turkey, a vocal critic of Assad, has backed Syrian opposition militants fighting for his ouster since the complex conflict began with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011.
Turkey and Russia, which backs the Syrian regime with military support, brokered a ceasefire deal between Assad’s forces and militant groups in late December, but violence has recently escalated across the country, particularly around the capital.
Turkey, together with Russia and Iran, are convening talks next week in the Kazakh capital of Astana to shore up a ceasefire in Syria. At Davos, Simsek said there had to be “a beginning in Astana” to make sure the conflict stops. “For now at least the fighting has stopped, it is very, very critical because that is the beginning of anything else. The process is to make sure that we translate the current lull into a more lasting ceasefire initially, and then of course talk about more mundane stuff, settling the conflict. Meanwhile, Five Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack in northern Syria blamed on the Islamic State group, local media reported Friday, quoting the Turkish military.
Another nine soldiers were wounded in the bombing in Al-Bab, where Turkish-backed rebels have suffered heavy casualities in a weeks-long bid to retake the town from IS, the private Dogan news agency said.—Agencies

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